Ex-Wildcat Damian Lillard wins Skills Challenge at All-Star weekend
Houston • Damian Lillard won't leave his first All-Star weekend empty-handed.
The Portland Trail Blazers rookie and former Weber State star won the Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday at Toyota Center.
Lillard won the contest by speeding through the final round in only 29.8, easily navigating an obstacles course requiring accurate passing, two layups and a jump shot.
"I think the biggest thing for me was to try not to be too cool and speed through it," Lillard said. "... Today was the first time I saw the course."
He beat out San Antonio point guard Tony Parker, Philadelphia's Jrue Holliday, Atlanta's Jeff Teague, Detroit's Brandon Knight and hometown favorite Jeremy Lin, of the Houston Rockets.
By winning the contest, Lillard earned Poppie Simmons from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Great Houston a $25,000 scholarship for college. Asked where he wanted to attend college, Simmons listed either the University of Houston or Texas A&M.
Not Weber State?
"No," Simmons said. "Too far."
Lillard also participated in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge, scoring 18 points in his Team Shaq's 162-135 loss.
Lillard is favored to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year award. He averages 18.3 points and 6.5 assists for the Blazers, who entered the All-Star break three games out of eighth place in the Western Conference.
Lillard played four years with the Wildcats (although he was granted a fifth thanks to a medical redshirt) and was a two-time Big Sky Conference MVP. He finished his career with 1,934 points, second most in school history.
While the NBA Players Association ousted executive director Billy Hunter by a unanimous vote at a Saturday meeting in Houston, it wasn't complete. According to reports, the association voted 24-0 to remove Hunter from the position he held since 1996, after an independent report concluded last month that he abused association funds.
Among the teams not represented were the Jazz. Player representative Mo Williams did not travel to Houston for the meeting, instead remaining in Salt Lake City to rehab after having two pins removed from his right thumb Wednesday in New York.
Williams has not played since Dec. 22 when he tore a ligament in his thumb against the Miami Heat. Dr. Michelle Carlson performed surgery on the thumb on Jan. 4. Carlson was Williams' surgeon when he suffered the same injury in 2008 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
It is unknown when or if Williams, himself an All Star in 2009, will be healthy enough to play in games.
Blake Griffin interrupted the question with mock worry: "Am I getting traded."
No, Blake, you most certainly are not among those rumored to be on the move before Thursday's trade deadline. However, the same can't be said of all of the players present at All-Star Weekend, with many rumors involving Griffin's Los Angeles Clippers. Griffin, a three-time All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick, said it's impossible to totally block out the distraction of the annual deadline.
"You can't keep it from getting in," he said.
The latest blockbuster to be floated came Saturday when a Yahoo! Sports report linked the Clippers to Boston and Kevin Garnett in a deal that would potentially involve Slam Dunk contest participant Eric Bledsoe. However, Garnett has the option to veto any trade, and Griffin said the Clippers don't necessarily need to make moves.
"We need to be better," Griffin said of the 29-17 Clippers, "but I think with our talent-wise, we have the talent to be a championship contender."
Chris Paul told reporters that he had not encouraged Clippers management to acquire Garnett, a 15-time All Star.
"I don't think we need to [make a trade]," Paul said.