When Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard Speaks, You Listen Anfernee Simons – Andscape

As Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups shouted he would call a late-season opener against the Sacramento Kings, Anvernee Simmons dribbled to the left side of the field instead of the middle. As the timeout set in, longtime Blazers Center guard Damien Lillard went to his ever-vigilant pupil to quietly present another valuable teaching moment.

“We were talking about the timeout and I was really confused,” Simmons told Andscape after his 115-108 win in Sacramento on October 19. To get the ball out instead of picking just one side. But it was a learning experience at the time.

“I didn’t understand what I needed to do at the time. So, the lady sort of corrected me and explained it to me because I was kind of lost.”

With Lillard by his side, now rising star Simmons seems far from lost most of the time, learning the nuances of basketball faster than most junior guards. Simmons put the NBA on the record by scoring 29 points, including 22 points and six three-pointers in the third quarter of the 135-110 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Four years ago, Simmons was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. But since his arrival, Simmons has primarily played behind veteran guard C.J. McCollum. On April 10, 2019, rookie Simmons seized the moment on his first start, scoring 37 points against the Kings at the end of the regular season while the Blazers rested for Lillard and McCollum. It wasn’t until McCollum traded with the New Orleans Pelicans on February 8 that Simmons really had the opportunity.

Simmons had heard all of McCollum’s trade rumors, but he didn’t really believe it was going to happen.

“We knew it was coming; everyone knew it was coming. It was actually pretty crazy for me to have that happen, because when I walked in, I thought he would never leave, and it would be Blazer forever,” Simons said. “It was so crazy. It kind of made me focus more on what I had to do to help the team win in the future.”

Six-time star Lillard said it was important for Simmons to be his “own player” and not try to be McCollum. However, Lillard also believes there are some skills from his time playing McCollum that Simmons should use to his advantage. Simmons averaged 21.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 23 games without McCollum last season for Portland, according to Statmuse.

“It’s going to be a different dynamic, but I think one thing he’s going to need to take away from CJ is that when we’re there, he’s going to have to go get it the same way I’m going to go,” Lillard told Landscape. He can’t worry about stepping on my toes, or ‘Am I too aggressive? “And he has to do it because that will make things up as much as the teams deal with me. I’m going to get a lot of attention, but the more honest he is in keeping them and the more assertive and aggressive he is, it makes my life so much easier.”

Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups (left) talks with point guard Anvernee Simmons (right) during the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Moda Center on Oct. 21 in Portland, Oregon. The Blazers signed Simons’ four-year, $100 million contract in June.

Steve Chambers / Getty Images

The Blazers showed their faith in Simons for the future by signing him to a four-year contract extension that paid out nearly $100 million. He does not take the contract seriously, because he “takes responsibility” to grow and improve daily.

“I have to go out there and be able to perform at the highest level against the best players, and I kind of proved that. [I can do that] At the end of the year, Simmons said. “They showed me a lot of commitment to the new deal. I just carry it on my back, I don’t think about it, I just focus on myself, get better and focus on the team and winning.”

Lillard has made a point since Simons arrived to offer words of wisdom on the mental side of the game. Lillard Simmons is described as a committed, quick learner who looks you straight in the eye when you talk to him. Lillard added that Simons only asks a question when he needs further clarification and does not question what he is saying. Simmons said he received advice on how to handle family cases out of court from Lillard.

Lillard noticed last season that Simmons was carrying out his advice in games.

He’d be like, ‘Oh, now I see why you didn’t try the screen higher,’ Lillard said of Simmons. ‘Oh, I get why you’re looking. [the defender] Of the most. He began to be able to see and understand things on a different level. There are a lot of players who play a lot of minutes, but it can take years [to learn the game]. Sometimes they just don’t think about what’s going on. They only play because of course they are good.

“And what speaks the most about his progress is that he is intelligent, he is watching, he commands attention and he is humble. He is always listening and always asking questions. He has discovered the part that makes you confident about this: always being willing to listen. Training and hard work. Which is why he is back in home so fast.”

However, Lillard says it came at the right time when he offers wisdom and makes the point “not to be in people’s face every second.” A young rising star can easily possess an ego and discipline an older player. But 23-year-old Simmons learned years ago from his parents the importance of listening to those who came before you.

“It really comes from the respect I have for my parents,” Simmons said. “I’ve never been a person to say, ‘I’m listening to you, but I want to try it first.'” ‘If my parents tell me something, they have gone through it. So, I will listen and do exactly what they tell me to do. I have carried it with me in my life. I listen to my mum and dad.’

“And why shouldn’t I do whatever he says? It’s Damien Lillard. Everything I’ve been through, he’s been through and then some. So, all he says to me is valuable information. And I can tell from the start that I can tell he’s really invested in me. I’ve been Calling me about whatever he can say, because I’m trying to get where he wants. I’m going for it. I’ll do whatever he says and take it seriously.”

Lillard believes it is his duty to give his new backyard teammate his knowledge of basketball because of the veterans who helped him as a young member of the Blazers.

Lillard arrived in Portland as the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Veteran guards Earl Watson and Mo Williams took him under their wing to help him “accelerate the learning curve.” Lillard listened intently to every word, watched loads of movies with them and answered many of the challenging game scenario questions they had. Watson, the former coach of the Phoenix Suns, is now an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors, and Williams is the men’s basketball coach at Jackson State University.

Lillard described the guidance from Watson and Williams as “extremely important” to his development.

“I came as a rookie and had an impact on the team,” Lillard said. “I made everyone believe, even the organization and my teammates. And they came and made me take a step forward. Didn’t they? I have heart. I’m competitive. I work hard and eventually I would understand because I was seeing things and learning a beginner year as it went on. But it was going to be a little slower.

They came and were like, ‘Why are you trying so hard [against pick-and-roll defense]? If you know they’re going to get caught up in the catch, take the trap. If they jump out, get out and go hard on the first one to see if you can turn the corner. If you can not accept it. If you jump in early, know that if you come out of it hard the first time and he works hard to isolate you, next time, ditch it like you would and then split it up. Sometimes it seems like you just don’t get out of it. Look this way with your eyes and face it. You must use your eyes. There have been a lot of things that they were just sophomores as they speeded up that process.”

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Anvernee Simmons (right) had received the advice of all-star Damian Lillard (left). “I’ve been called about everything he can say, because I’m trying to get where he wants,” Simons said.

Sam Forencich / NBAE via Getty Images

Lillard scored a game-high 41 points as the Blazers defeated the Suns 113-111 in overtime on October 21. Meanwhile, Simmons overcame a tough shooting night to score a landslide victory in overtime. Lillard was the first Blazer to congratulate him with a chest shock.

Game-winning shots are usually left to “Dame Time,” but Lillard was proud to see the ambitious NBA All-Star have the confidence to capture the biggest shot of the night.

On Monday, Simmons ignited the Blazers by scoring 22 points on 8 of 8 shots in the third quarter in the win over the Nuggets. Simmons, Liard and the Blazers improved to their first 4-0 start since 1999.

“In the past, I might have taken a step back,” Simons said. “But the lady has been telling me to be yourself and go for it. Don’t be shy. You are good, you have shown that you can play at a high level. Go out there and be you.”

Lillard is proud to see Simons’ aggressiveness and improvement but he has one condition in all of his teachings.

He told Lillard Simmons he had to pay it up front.

“I told him that many times,” Lillard said. “Whatever I have learned and picked up, I will tell you, and I will pass it on to you, and it is your job to do it to the next person.” “

Mark J. Spears is Andscape’s #1 NBA Writer. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.

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