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NBA’s Damian Lillard still a Raiders fan despite team’s move

All-NBA guard Damian Lillard is used to seeing the panoramic shots of his native Oakland during Raiders telecasts. He’s not so used to seeing similar shots of the Las Vegas Strip.

“That just looks kind of weird,” Lillard said. “It was like a reminder that they’re really in Vegas. They’re not playing in Oakland ever again. That was the only time where I was just like, ‘Damn, they’re really gone.’”

But the Raiders certainly are not forgotten.

The Portland Trail Blazers superstar is enjoying the Raiders’ resurgence — albeit from afar — as he prepares for the 2020-21 NBA season. Lillard is a longtime Raiders fan and is particularly impressed with the offense, which is scoring 28.3 points per game after averaging 19.6 in 2019.

“When we get the ball, I feel like every possession, I’m like, ‘We can score.’ From anywhere. Whether it’s a short drive. Or if we’re just pounding it down the field, I feel confident,” said Lillard, a six-time All-NBA selection who averaged 30 points and 8.0 assists in 2019-20. “Our defense is improving. They struggled for the first five, six, seven games. They played great against the Chiefs and since then, I think they’ve played a little better.

“That’s my only concern,” he added. “Being consistent on defense.”

Lillard, who has a Raiders tattoo, said he was sad to see the team leave Oakland and feels like the franchise was a “really good positive” for the community. He contended that the relocation was a “loss for the city.” But remains a passionate fan and said he plans to attend home games in Las Vegas when fans are allowed.

“There’s no fans, so it doesn’t have the feel of ‘They’re playing in Vegas.’ Nobody can be there anyway, so it ain’t really hitting right now,” Lillard said. “I think next season, when it gets to the point where I’m like, ‘Damn, I’m never seeing the baseball field (at Oakland Coliseum). You don’t see the diamond out there.”

All you see now is just the grass in Allegiant Stadium. “But I feel good about our team,” he said.

Making do

The Raiders practiced Thursday without the 10 defensive players who are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Defensive coordinator said Paul Guenther said “it’s just not the same” practicing “without taking the reps.

“I don’t know how we can beat (the Chiefs) with a full lineup of practice, let alone with three quarters of your lineup not here this week,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “We’ll get these guys ready to play. Whoever is out there at 5:20 (p.m. Sunday) will be ready to go.”

The absences on the starting defense in turn affect who is available on the scout defense, thereby limiting how the offense can practice as well.

“You can’t ask the guys that (the defense has) right now practicing to also give us a look,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “It leaves you thin in terms of your preparation, but we went through it a couple of weeks ago when our offensive line missed the entire week. … We manage to make it work.”

Injury report

Cornerback Keisean Nixon (groin) practiced in full Thursday after being limited Wednesday.

Running back Jalen Richard (chest) did not practice for the second consecutive day, while safety Erik Harris (oblique), defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (ankle), fullback Alec Ingold (ribs) and tackle Kolton Miller (ankle) were all limited again.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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