Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, a topic of trade speculation for weeks, said Friday he had « not made a firm decision » about his future in the NBA.
Speaking to reporters in a videoconference the same day TrueHoop reported that Oakland native trade demand was imminent, Lillard reiterated his desire is for the Trail Blazers to join the roster after losing to the Denver Nuggets in the first round dramatically improve the playoffs.
« I think the best way to put it is to be more urgent about what our next step is and how we’re going, » Lillard said after Team USA’s training session in Las Vegas. “We are very proud of the way we have made it to the playoffs over the years. We’re not a bad team. We are a winning team. We were in the playoffs every year. We have a great environment, we have a great city, we have great fans. There are many positive things.
« But I think we’ve got to the point where it’s like, ‘Okay, but it’s not enough. » Do we really want to win everything? Is that what we’re shooting at? And we have to translate this desire to win at this level into action. That was my only thing all along. ”
As a six-time All-Star, Lillard has spent all nine years of his career in Portland. The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons but haven’t made it to the NBA finals. Since their only appearance in the Western Conference in 2019, the Trail Blazers have been eliminated from the first round in the last two seasons.
This resulted in the sacking of Terry Stotts, Lillard’s only coach, before the Trail Blazers hired former NBA Finals MVP and Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups. The hiring has encountered controversy arising from Billups’ 1997 sexual assault allegations, which were settled out of court. Since the Blazers were eliminated in the playoffs, speculation about Lillard’s future has been circulating.
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported in June that Lillard’s inability to compile a list of championship bouts « could push Lillard out of Portland. » TrueHoop reported Friday that Lillard « planet to request a trade in the coming days ».
However, Lillard insists that he is not the source of the reports. When asked if he expected to play in Portland next season, Lillard said, « I assume so. »
Still, the Trail Blazers are at a crossroads as an organization. After two listless seasons and a 4-2 loss to a Nuggets team that missed two starters in the first round due to injury, General Manager Neil Olshey declared: the list. «
It appears that 31-year-old Lillard disagrees and would like to see how Olshey handles the off-season before making a decision about his future. The Trail Blazers – operating without caps and the eleventh highest payroll in the league – have no choices in the July 29 draft and will be on a mid-level exception, experienced minimum contracts and trades limited if the free agency starts in August. 2.
Olshey and Billups will visit Lillard in Las Vegas this weekend for an agreed-upon meeting before Lillard and Team USA leave for the Tokyo Games. Lillard is likely to battle for a medal as the Trail Blazers frontrunners traverse perhaps the most important off-season in franchise history.
« There is a conversation to be had, » Lillard said of his meeting with Olshey and Billups.
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If Portland can’t add Lillard to his roster by the time he returns, it could force him to seek a deal. Also in Team USA is Draymond Green, who would definitely like to see Lillard in a Warriors jersey next season. As is so often the case at such events, there can be recruiting. Bam Adebayo from Miami, Zach LaVine from Chicago and Jayson Tatum from Boston all have the opportunity to express their point of view.
Should Golden State get involved in a bidding war for Lillard, it could put together a tempting offer around Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, this year’s seventh and 14th overall picks, and several future picks for the first round.
« My intention in my heart is to wear a Blazers uniform throughout my career, » Lillard said. “But in time you want to win everything. For that we all have to make progress. «
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