SAN FRANSISCO — As a native of Oakland, it’s always a familiar feeling for Damian Lillard every time the Trail Blazers end up at Oracle Arena to play the Golden State Warriors. Between growing up in the Brookfield neighborhood of Oakland, which is situated less than three miles from where the Warriors play, and going to games at Oracle Arena as an adolescent, everything from the bus ride on I-880 to the faces of staff working at the arena invokes memories for the 6-3 point guard in his fifth season out of Weber State.
So after the Trail Blazers fell 121-109 to the Warriors in Game One of their first round, best-of-seven series Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena, it only made sense for Lillard to do the same thing he would have done after playing a game in Oakland roughly a decade earlier: he went to see his grandmother.
“When I got out of school all the way from kindergarten to high school, after school was over I didn’t go home, I went to my grandmother’s house,” said Lillard. “And I’d be there all day, spend the night a lot of times with my grandmother. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. In the summer I used to stay at my grandmother’s, I basically lived with my grandmother during the summer. I would go to work with her. We just did everything together. It was kind of as if she raised me as a second mom I spent so much time around her.”
So after Sunday’s game, Lillard joined his grandmother and other family members in the area for Easter dinner, which not only provided Damian a chance to catch up, but also an opportunity to put the result in Game One behind him.
“We didn’t even talk about basketball like that,” said Lillard. “She said she was watching the game and she was screaming at the TV in the fourth quarter and stuff, but after that we didn’t really talk about basketball.”
Which, after a long lead up to Game One thanks to both teams clinching their respective seeds a week before the start of the postseason, was appreciated. Lillard doesn’t get to spend as much time with his grandmother, let alone his aunts, uncles and cousins who still live in the Oakland as he’d like, seeing as how he lives in Portland and spends much of the year on traversing the country, so having an opportunity to visit with close family and friends was a welcomed occasion. And after a tough loss, it was even more beneficial.
“It was really good for me because I don’t get to see my family really often,” said Lillard, who finished Game One with 35 points, five rebounds and three assists in 39 minutes. “Even in the summer sometimes when I get really busy with endorsements and stuff like that, it’s hard to get home and spend a lot of time. So when I can be here and we’ve got days in between and I can go and see my grandmother and go eat dinner with my family, it’s a good time and it’s good for me.
“It’s like, you don’t realize how much time goes by since you’ve seen them last. That’s the beauty of it, being able to be here, be in a playoff series and have time to actually be around them. I appreciate that.”