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Lillard Eager To Improve Defense Under Tutelage Of Gary Payton

Damian Lillard has heard the criticism of his defense and took time during Wednesday’s Rookie of the Year presentation to answer his critics.

“When people say stuff about my defense, it bothers me,’’ Lillard said. “And I’m aware of it. It drives me. It lights a fire under me.’’

Lillard plans to study defense this summer under the direction of Gary Payton, who won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1995-96.

Payton reached out to Lillard watching the rookie point guard score 37 points at Golden State.

“He said ‘I want to help you,’ ’’ Lillard said. “He said it would take time for me to become a defender, but he said I have everything to become one. So this will be the summer where I get in the gym with him and try to learn from him.’’

Neil Olshey is thrilled at the prospect of Lillard working out with Payton.

“The more time Dame spends with Gary this offseason, the more I know Dame will respect that he has to give an incredible effort on the defensive end,’’ Olshey said. “Because if Gary is going to invest time in him talking about defense, Damian is the type of kid who will feel like he has to deliver.’’

Via Jason Quick/Oregonian
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