Damian Lillard addressed reporters on Friday, hours after a report indicating that Lillard intended to request a trade from Portland went online, and if you simply listened to the primary few seconds you almost certainly left feeling relieved. “It’s not true,” said Lillard, a USA Basketball banner hanging behind him. “I said the last time I spoke to you guys [that] tons of things are being said, it hasn’t come from me.” Well that settles it … right?
“I’ll also say that I haven’t made any firm decisions on what my future is going to be,” Lillard continued. “There’s really no need for anybody else to talk on behalf of me … if there’s something to be said, I’ll speak directly with my team and with [Blazers GM] Neil [Olshey]. That’s that.” Except it’s not. The Lillard/Blazers standoff is reaching a boiling point. Lillard could easily put to rest persistent chatter about his future. He’s under contract through 2025. the sole way the Blazers would trade him is that if he asked to be traded. But he doesn’t. He says the Blazers got to show more urgency in reshaping the roster. He says a training change simply isn’t enough. He says his heart is in Portland. But his head could be elsewhere.
“Right now, I’m unsure what I’m getting to do,” Lillard said. “My intention, my heart has always been assailing being during a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But I feel over time, you would like to win it all. I would like to win it beat a Trail Blazers uniform. We all need to be making strides toward that.” Objectively, that isn’t getting to happen. Not next season. Not the season after, either. Lillard knows it. In an interview with Yahoo! on Friday, Lillard noted that the Blazers “were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should always have beat.” When asked to deal with Olshey’s recent suggestion that the roster wasn’t the rationale Portland was bounced within the first round, Lillard disagreed.
“We have had numerous teams within the league that don’t make dramatic changes to their roster, they modify coaches and therefore the team improves,” Lillard said. “Maybe because they needed a fresh voice, somebody new follows. Sometimes a teacher is simply that great. I don’t disagree that perhaps Chauncey can really change our team and make us a far better team and obtain us getting into that direction. [But] I feel if you check out our team because it is, going into next season, I don’t see how you’ll say ‘this may be a championship team, it just needed a replacement coach’ once we just lost within the first round to a team that was hurt.”
To be clear—Lillard isn’t wrong. The Blazers’ defense was abysmal last season. Billups, a first-year coach with a whopping one season as an assistant on his resume, can’t significantly change that. Portland’s roster is already expensive, with $107 million committed to salary already for next season. The Blazers will blow past the posh tax threshold just by bringing back Jusuf Nurkic (who features a partially guaranteed $12 million contract) Carmelo Anthony, Zach Collins, and Norman Powell. Powell, who is predicted to say no his player option, might be particularly expensive. He’s one of the simplest young wing players on an increasingly shrinking market. Lillard wants the Blazers to form moves.
The Blazers, frankly, don’t have many to form . “The best thanks to putting it’s to be more urgent about what our next step is and the way we move forward,” Lillard said. “I think we’ve tons of pride about [how] we made the playoffs of these years during a row. We’re not a nasty team. We’re a winning team. We’re within the playoffs per annum. We are in a great environment, a great city. we’ve great fans. It’s tons of positives. I just think we’ve reached that time where, OK, it’s not enough. can we actually need to win it all? Is that what we’re shooting for? and that we need to do things to point out that. we’ve to place action behind that desire to win at that level. That’s been my only thing this complete time.”
Lillard will meet with Olshey and Billups in Las Vegas in the week. Lillard downplayed the meeting (“We will talk,” Lillard said) but it’ll be significant. The Blazers need answers. Does Lillard want to be in Portland? If yes, Olshey will get to dig in. He’s reluctant to maneuver C.J. McCollum, but McCollum is definitely Portland’s best asset. Some would argue it’s just one.
But Olshey must know if Lillard doesn’t want to be there, too. Lillard may be a superstar. He just turned 31 and is coming off one among his finest seasons. He’s tough, durable and there are few players you’d want the ball within the fourth quarter quite Lillard. The trade market would be robust. And with Lillard headed to Tokyo next week, Olshey must know if he should be exploring it. nobody wants to ascertain the top in Portland for Damian Lillard. But Lillard wants a championship, and therefore the Blazers can’t deliver it. Portland wants one, too, but the simplest thanks to collect one could also be to trade arguably the best player in franchise history and rebuild around the assets you revisit for him. “The conversations that require to be had are being had,” said Lillard. That’s good. But more and more, those conversations appear unlikely to finish with Lillard in Portland.