It’s happened again.
The NBA announced its reserves for the 2017 All-Star Game, and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was left off the final roster for the Feb. 17 showcase. It’s the third year in a row that Lillard has been overlooked. (He was named as an injury replacement in 2015.)
Lillard is averaging 26.2 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game for a Trail Blazers team that has underperformed (20-27) in the first half of the season. His snub marks the first time since 1986 a player has averaged 25-plus points per game for two straight seasons and been denied consecutive All-Star appearances. The last player for this to happen to was Purvis Short who played for the Golden State Warriors at the time.
This year, the fans voted in James Harden and Stephen Curry while the coaches chose Klay Thompson and Russell Westbrook. While Westbrook is averaging a triple-double on the season, Thompson is only averaging 21.1 points per game.
Last year, fans voted in Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry as starters, while coaches picked up Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and James Harden as All-Star reserves. Lillard was the odd man out again.
He later dropped a track titled “They Sleep,” where he vented his frustrations on being left out of the All-Star Game.
"Lemme holla at y'all bout a few things quick / I'm as humble as they come, but my shoe game lit / I ain't make the all-Stars but I'm flu game sick / Last time they count me out, what I do? Game 6 ... "
In 2015, Lillard posted and deleted an Instagram post where he thanked league officials for not thinking he was good enough to be an All-Star. He later took to the media to air out how pissed he was over the snub.
I'm definitely going to take it personally. I said I'd be pissed off about it and I am. I just felt disrespected because I play the game the right way, I play unselfishly, I play for my team to win games and I produce at a high level. I think what I bring to the game as a person, my make up mentally, how I am towards my teammates, how I am towards the media, how I am towards the fans, what an All Star represents in this league, what you would want people looking at in an All Star, I think I make up all those things.
For me to be having the type of season i'm having, better than any I've had before, and for my team to be third in the Western Conference, I just see it as disrespectful. I'm not one of those guys who's going to say, 'I should be over this guy or that guy.' I'm not a hater. I have respect for each guy who made the roster, and they deserve to, but at the same time, I feel really disrespected, man. That's honestly how I feel.
Lillard was later named an All-Star replacement for Kobe Bryant, who could not play due to injury. The same could happen to the Trail Blazers guard this season. Paul was named a reserve, but is recovering from a broken thumb and won’t be healthy enough to play in the All-Star Game.
Yet that should offer little consolation to Lillard, especially when you consider that he was also cut from the U.S. 2014 FIBA World Cup team and withdrew from consideration for the 2016 Olympics.
Lillard has established himself as Portland’s franchise player and earned a maximum contract for his efforts. He even earned all-NBA status in 2014 and 2016, so clearly someone understands how good he is.
But when it comes to All-Star voting, it’s easy to understand why he feels disrespected.