Monday, December 18, 2017
Sports

Lillard ready after busy week

NEW ORLEANS — Damian Lillard enjoyed making history during All-Star weekend, even if it didn't turn out quite as he would have liked.

The second-year Portland guard came out on top in the first two of the record five events in which he participated, only to come up short in the final three.

Still, he had no regrets about maintaining the busiest schedule possible for what is supposed to be a break in the grind of an 82-game regular season.

"It was all worth it. It was what I signed up for — a great experience for me," Lillard said. "I enjoyed myself."

Lillard spent about 43 minutes on the court over the course of the five events, and said his 23-year-old body was hardly the worse for wear.

"Obviously, I did more than everybody else, but I don't feel like I'm a wounded body or anything like that," Lillard said. "If I had practice tomorrow, I'd be fine and ready.

Lillard also expects he will be even more of an asset to his team, and perhaps bring a bit more swagger, now that he has officially joined the league's elite. "My confidence is high, and now I'm taking more confidence with me because now I feel like I'm one of them," Lillard said.

LEBRON: EAST IS UNCLEAR: LeBron James won't assume the eventual date with Indiana that so many others expect. The Heat All-Star definitely has another one with the Thunder's Kevin Durant. The league's two best players will be back on the same floor Thursday in Oklahoma City.

Less than two months will remain in the regular season when play resumes today, with so much still to sort out in the loaded Western Conference.

Things seem so much simpler in the East, where a Miami-Indiana matchup in the conference finals has seemed a certainty — except to James.

"This is more than a two-team race. There's a lot of good teams in the Eastern Conference," he said. "It's been a slow start for us as a whole, but there's so many good teams, you can't just count on us and one other team. I respect every team we go against."

"What matters more is that we're healthy. We're going to compete for first place of course, but we're not going to make it this huge thing," Chris Bosh said.

Durant said teammate Russell Westbrook will return Thursday. Westbrook missed 27 games since having surgery on Dec. 27 to deal with swelling in his injured right knee. Thunder officials could not be reached to respond to the report.

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