PORTLAND, Ore. — Bamboo is tolerant to drought, but balancing water with restraint is tricky business, especially if you’re a young NBA player. This was the message delivered to the Trail Blazers’ roster last October after the team heard from Greg Bell, the author of “Water The Bamboo: Unleashing the Potential of Teams and Individuals.”
The bamboo becomes a running gag among the Trail Blazers, and it’s the source of quite the shtick between All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard and reserve Luis Montero.
“I would always tell him, ‘Did you water your bamboo?,’ like, every day,” Lillard says. “So he started singing, like, ‘Waaaaater the Bamboooooo.'”
Montero has played all of 42 minutes as a rookie, but he apparently excels as the team’s musical director — though he speaks broken English. The song metastasizes into various riffs and remixes. Pretty soon, Lillard begins calling Montero “Water,” and Montero calls Lillard “Water.”
In colloquial Spanish, attaching an “ito” or “ita” to a name or object is a term of endearment, literally meaning “little.” So Allen Crabbe is now “AC-ito,” and Maurice Harkless is “Mo-ito.” Eventually, everyone on the team is just “Water-ito.”
Just after the All-Star break, Lillard gets a call early in the morning on a “blackout day” — designated as such by coach Terry Stotts in lieu of “voluntary,” so players understand they can stay away from the practice facility in suburban Portland without being perceived as unmotivated. It’s Montero, who doesn’t drive, hasn’t dabbled with Uber and whose normal ride is away.
“‘He says, ‘Water-ito, I need a ride to the gym,'” Lillard remembers.
“You know it’s a blackout day,” Lillard tells him.
“I need to get the work in,” Lillard recalls Montero saying.
Lillard drives to Montero’s apartment, and they head to the facility. While Montero works out on the floor for a couple of hours, Lillard lifts in the weight room. Lillard has been concerned about Montero’s wardrobe, so after they finish up, they hop over to Saks Fifth Avenue. “He hadn’t been suited up,” Lillard says. “‘You get you a black one. You get you a blue one. You get you a gray one. You can wear the suit. You can wear a nice button-up shirt with the sport coat and some jeans and nice shoes.’ I was just breaking it down for him.”
By the time Lillard drops Montero back home, it’s dark — but Montero is now suited up.
“We had spent the whole day together,” Lillard says. “I had picked him up at like 9 o’clock. And by the time we got home, it was 5 o’clock.”