HOUSTON -- Damian Lillard leads all rookies in assists this season. But it was the helping hand he provided to a youngster which made him most proud of his victory in Saturday's All-Star Skills Competition.
"I'm honored to win this," the Blazers rookie guard said afterwards. "But the bigger deal was being able to get this scholarship money for him," he said while motioning to the young man seated to his right on the podium. "I grew up in a tough situation and if it wasn't for sports, I wouldn't have had a chance to attend college. So it means a lot for me to be able to do that for him."
As Lillard was addressing the media assembled in Houston for All-Star weekend, another young man with a Portland connection was on his way to winning the NBA's Slam Dunk competition. Jefferson high school product, Terrence Ross paid tribute to Vince Carter, a former Toronto Raptors dunk champ, when he caught a pass off the side of the backboard, and turned 180 degrees in the air, before slamming home a powerful one-handed dunk.
From the sound of the Toyota Center crowd, it may have been the best dunk of the night. Ross is a lot shorter on words than he is on vertical leap inches, saying afterwards, "I feel blessed, but it's still a little overwhelming. I'm just trying to soak it all in."
Portland should also soak it all in. The Blazers have the skills competition champion, who was also the top overall pick of Friday's Rising Stars challenge game.
Rip City also can take a little credit for producing the NBA's top slam dunk artist, at least for the next 12-months.
Who said Oregon doesn't produce enough good basketball players?
Lillard may lead rookies in assists. But the Rose City just picked up a couple in the stat sheet too.