PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It has certainly been an eventful summer for Damian Lillard, and it continues this week as he’s hosting his Damian Lillard Basketball Camp for the first time in three years.

“Kids love being here. I mean, it’s like a cheap daycare that the kids love to be at,” Lillard said.

Lillard says he’s noticed over the years that parents stick around and take in what his camp is teaching campers.

Through that and many other experiences, Lillard learned that his camp is probably more important for the kid’s life skills than their basketball skills.

“These kids don’t forget. They remember everything. They feel a way about it, they take it in,” he said. “Since I’ve learned that, I’ve just focused more on, ‘How can I impact them? How can I change them? How can I really get through to them instead of just showing up and just having a first day, second day, third day, alright camp is over?’ I come in, like, ‘How can I really get through to these kids?’”

The camp marks the first time Lillard has been out publicly in the community since he signed a two-year, $225 million extension with the Blazers that keeps him with the team through the 2026-2027 season.

He’s been out and about though doing other errands like us regular people and has received positive feedback from Trail Blazers fans. He tries to keep that all in perspective.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Dame, we’re happy that you’re going be sticking around in Portland. Congrats on the extension.’ There’s been a lot of people saying that to me, but I haven’t thought too much about it. It’s my third extension that I’ve signed, and none of them I never stopped,” he said. “Obviously, I know what it is, but I’ve never stopped and looked at it, like, ‘Oh my god, this extension.’ It’s just like, I keep doing the work. I keep showing up.”

As for the abdominal injury that’s kept Dame out since January, he’s saying he’s physically feeling great now and is ready to go.

“After I would say like a month and a half, I started to feel a lot better, and I was like, ‘I’m back. I don’t feel nothing.’ But then fast forward to four months, and I could just feel it in my movement. I was like, ‘Man, I didn’t even realize how bad it was.’ Because I had been dealing with it for four-and-a-half years,” said Lillard.

An unexpected plus for Lillard through all of this as well has been the downtime’s impact on his mental health.

“I guess the burden of, ‘We have to win, and I’ve got to perform,’ that’s a little bit stressful. Just going the last almost eight months without having to think about none of those things has kind of cleared my mind,” he said.

That clearing has left him grateful for his time away from the game.

“It’s crazy to say right now because I never thought I’d say it, but I think it was exactly what I needed. It was exactly what had to happen,” said Lillard.