The DVD of the just-completed game would be dropped off before he left the locker room. Sometimes Damian Lillard would watch later the same night, usually he wouldn’t. Sometimes he would watch on another day, usually he wouldn’t. That went on month after month last season.

In the summer, he had a collection and he had time. Lillard would watch, mostly alone at his home in Portland. And he would cringe.

“In my head, I was kind of embarrassed watching myself,” Lillard told NBA.com.

His defense looked that bad.

“Just to see some of the plays that I could have done a better job on or showed more effort that I gave,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I was doing that.”

He is the reigning Rookie of the Year, a foundation of the promising future of the Trail Blazers… and seeing a big hole in his game. Just as bad, he was hearing about it too. That settled it. Angered, driven and admittedly ashamed, Lillard made improving on defense a priority as he went through offseason workouts.

He wants to see a different player when he watches the post-game DVDs in the future. He wants to not hear the critiques about a point guard with a limitless future offensively and little reason for pride on the other side of the ball.

This is the new Lillard with 2013-14, his second season, days away from opening.

“He took a lot of criticism about his defense,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Obviously he had a great season as a rookie. Historical in some ways. But people kind of chipped away at his defense, and he took that to heart. You can really tell that he’s put his mind to it, because he wants to be great at both ends.”
The Trail Blazers see Lillard better at navigating screens and better able to anticipate what the opponent will do on offense. Some of that was always there – he hit the league smart and mature after four years in college – and some is the experience from the rookie learning curve.