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Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum stresses importance of Blazers’ team culture to newcomers

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For Portland Trail Blazers stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, a team’s culture is everything and they are stressing its importance to the newcomers.

Lillard is aware that some people downplay them whenever they point out how critical a healthy team culture is. But for Lillard, he has observed how newcomers felt and embraced this team-first attitude that’s embodied by the Blazers organization.

“People always hear us talking about culture, and they think we are just saying the shit,” said Damian Lillard, the franchise star, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. “But really, there is power in our culture. That’s part of the reason why I feel like we can win the championship.

“You see guys who have come in here after playing with some of the best teams, and they are like, ‘Man, this is different.’ There’s power in that. It gives you an advantage, it gives you an opportunity to do something that other teams won’t be able to do.”

This culture doesn’t just involve those donning jerseys and sneakers. It involves those working in the Blazers facility who clean after the players. McCollum shared that head coach Terry Stotts always reminds them that the people in the courts work with them, not for them.

“But I think it’s important for our team to do the little stuff,” McCollum said. “If I can’t count on you to throw your towel in the right bin, how can I depend on you in the fourth quarter of a close game? It is little stuff. But if you forget that, are you going to forget to box out? You might be off one step on a pin down, and it causes us a turnover.

“So for us, our culture is a way of saying how we do things. It’s established how we work, how we treat each other, how we prepare, and I think it’s a certain atmosphere that once you become a part of it, you enjoy it.”

The Trail Blazers have qualified for the playoffs six consecutive times. Last year, they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals — the farthest they’ve been in two decades. And they can attribute this success not just to the various advanced statistics but to the intangible yet valuable culture they live and breathe.