LeBron James called Damian Lillard the Rookie of the Year. (Cameron Browne/Getty Images)
There's nothing quite like a ringing endorsement from LeBron James.
That's just what Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard, the No. 6 pick in last year's NBA Draft, got a day before Portland hosts James and the Miami Heat on Thursday night. Speaking to the media, James said that Lillard is the NBA Rookie of the Year and praised him for playing in the league like he's "been here before." He said that Lillard is already a good point guard and will become one of the great guards of the future for the league:
"Well I think he's the Rookie of the Year. [H]e's never out of his comfort zone. He's never too fast, he's never too slow. He plays in his own lane."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it's hard not to like him, saying his play "belies" his experience but hopes to make Lillard's life "a little more miserable" when the two teams play.
Lillard has twice been named The Western Conference Rookie of the Month. On Halloween, for his NBA debut, Lillard scored 23 points and dished 11 assists against the Los Angeles Lakers, joining Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players in NBA history to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debuts. On the season, he is averaging 18.2 points on 42 percent shooting, 6.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 38 minutes and has appeared in all 34 games for the Blazers.
The No. 1 pick in last years Draft, Anthony Davis, is also in contention for the Rookie of the Year award. He is averaging 13.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game for the New Orleans Hornets but has missed 13 games because of injuries.