Let’s be clear here: Damian Lillard hasn’t requested a trade and the Trail Blazers have shown no interest in moving one of the best players in franchise history. Everything points to Lillard starting the 2021-22 NBA season in a Portland jersey.
That said, it’s also worth noting that Lillard has made no secret of his frustration with how the previous campaign unfolded. The Trail Blazers fell to a short-lived Nuggets squad in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, marking the fourth time in the past five seasons that they failed to escape the first round.
So when Lillard, a six-time All-Star who has played for nearly a decade in Portland, drops comments like he did during an Instagram livestream this week, ears tend to perk.
“I’m not leaving [Portland] – at least not right now, “Lillard said.
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It must be good for Trail Blazers fans to hear that Lillard won’t be leaving, but that “right now” warning has to be a bit of a concern, especially when put in the context of Portland’s offseason. Following the disappointing elimination from the playoffs, the 31-year-old made it clear that the Trail Blazers needed to improve to be considered a legitimate title contender.
“Everyone in this organization should look in the mirror because we constantly fall short,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports in July. “We have to look in the mirror and say that I have to be better because whatever we do is not working and it does not give us the opportunity to compete at the level we want to compete at.”
Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey responded by replacing longtime coach Terry Stotts with Chauncey Billups, although that hiring generated much controversy and unanswered questions. In terms of the roster, Olshey re-signed Norman Powell for five years and $ 90 million and landed some role players (Ben McLemore, Tony Snell and Cody Zeller), but nothing seemed to move the needle.
“When you go into free agency and things like this, you never know what happens.” Lillard said earlier this month while participating in the 2021 Olympics. “You never know where the guys are going to end up and why they go there. Just try to have conversations and convince the guys to be part of our team.
“And obviously this goes around, we couldn’t go out and just get some of the guys that we would have liked, and you go down the list and check out the guys that are out there that you like and that didn’t commit to a team or was. Part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones who want to be a part of what you’re doing. And I think that’s what we did. “
Again, Lillard hasn’t asked Olshey to change it. He wants to win a championship in Portland, and his commitment and passion for the franchise and the city have never been in doubt.
But if the Trail Blazers hit the same wall as Billups, perhaps Lillard will be forced to reconsider. The door is not completely open, but Lillard has not closed it completely either.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.