OAKLAND — Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard grew up right next to Oracle Arena, and attended games with his friends as a kid. Now he’s on the court in the Western Conference Finals at that same venue in it’s final season as the Warriors’ home.
Playing in the arena is a unique experience for Lillard and not just for nostalgic reasons. Lillard is literally looking up and seeing people he knows well in the crowd.
“I’m from here and I think just me being so close to here, I could walk home from here if I wanted to, so that tells you how close it is,” Lillard said after Tuesday’s Game 1 loss. “Just growing up around so many of these people. The Warriors weren’t always the Warriors that they are today.
“A lot of the people I grew up with, a lot of my friends, they’re fans of this team. So when I come back it causes problems. Especially you see the faces in the crowd. This is the only place where — I don’t pay attention to the crowd — but in the game I’m running down the court and I just look one way and I’m recognizing people left and right that I know. Not just I recognize the face, they probably got my phone number.
“It’s kind of weird, but I think that kind of speaks to how special it is to be home, to be able to play in front of all these people.”
Lillard was not great in his first game back home, scoring 19 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Still it would be a surprise to no one if Lillard were to mark his final games at Oracle Arena with a memorable moment for those familiar faces in the crowd.