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Lillard wins Rookie of Year: 'I want an MVP some day'

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Portland Trail Blazers' point guard Damian Lillard was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year Wednesday. The award had little suspense, because Lillard racked up so many rookie of the month awards this season.Last June, after being chosen by the Trail Blazers as the sixth pick in the NBA draft, Damian Lillard held a press conference on the Weber Stadium campus at Ogden, Utah.

"I was excited, but I knew what I wanted for myself," Lillard said Wednesday at the Rose Garden. "I told the crowd, 'I want to be the Rookie of the Year.' Now here I am, getting this award."

Lillard received the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy as the league's top rookie and became the fourth unanimous selection, joining San Antonio's David Robinson, Houston's Ralph Sampson and the Los Angeles' Clippers' Blake Griffin with that distinction. The Portland point guard received all 121 first-place votes in the balloting of the nation's media and becomes the Blazers' fourth Rookie of the Year behind Geoff Petrie (1970-71), Sidney Wicks (1971-72) and Brandon Roy (2006-07).

Unanimous selection "means a lot," Lillard said. "Coming in, nobody wanted to give me this award. I had to go out and prove it up. My body of work this season is what led to it. "

The 6-2 Oakland native also joined a select club by winning all six Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards this past season.

After leading the NBA in minutes played (38.5 per game), setting a rookie record with 185 3-pointers and leading rookies in scoring (19.0) and assists (6.5) while playing all 82 games, Lillard fulfilled his expectation to be the league's top first-year player.

"I'm not surprised by it at all," he said during Wednesday's award presentation. "I don't mean that as a cocky statement. I know I put the work in to put myself in this position. Winning this award is letting me know everything I did up to this point has paid off."

Lillard told the assembled throng of media, team officials and assorted onlookers that he overcame plenty of adversity growing up poor in urban Oakland. He gained an inner self-confidence in sports, first in the sport of football.

"I fell in love with basketball after that and believed I could do anything," he said. "There was even a point where I wanted to be a professional wrestler. God knows I don't want to do that anymore."

Lillard said his original plan was to turn pro after his third season at Weber State as a redshirt sophomore, but broke his foot that season and was forced to return for a junior campaign.

"I was down about it, but I got motivated all over again," he said. "I knew what was on my back. My mom was struggling … I knew what was on my back. I had my family to take care of and all these people who believed in me."

General manager Neil Olshey said Lillard "set the standard for we want from young players in this organization going forward."

"The first step in building a championship-caliber organization is finding a championship-caliber point guard," Olshey said. "Ten months ago, we decided Damian was that guy. Ever since that day, not one time has Damian shirked from the ownership, accountability and responsibility we placed on him as an organization.

"He has helped prove that small-school players can excel in our league. Everyone in Portland embraces how special this kid is and how lucky we are to have him."

Coach Terry Stotts praised Lillard's character and work ethic.

"The thing that distinguishes him is he is never satisfied," Stotts said. "He is all about winning and community and team and about getting better."

Lillard has an endorsement contract with Adidas, which Wednesday launched sales of an "Endorsed By" special-edition T-shirt to commemorate the Rookie of the Year award. The T-shirt,featuring a closeup graphic of him over a satellite view of his hometown, will soon be available at $25. Lillard's "Crazyquick" Adidas shoes are available now at $140.

Lillard doesn't intend to rest on his laurels.

"I want to tighten up on everything I do" for next season, he said. "I want to bring my percentages up as a shooter, become a better ball-handler, work more on my middle (shooting) game.

"The biggest thing I can do is let it go. When you get this award, it's acknowledging the past. The season is over. There's a whole career ahead of me. I want more than the Rookie of the Year. I want to do a lot more. I want to win a championship, be an All-Star, be an MVP in this league. People might say I'm crazy again, but I think I can do it."