Earlier this offseason at summer league, Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard refuted a report which claimed he’s unhappy with the franchise and wants to be traded.
The Blazers were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first-round of the 2018 playoffs and it was a struggle for Lillard, causing many to surmise Lillard was looking to leave Portland.
“I’m not unhappy,” Lillard said at summer league. “I love where I live. I love the organization. I love our coaching staff. I love where I am.”
Lillard, who had a superb 2017-18 regular season in which he scored 26.9 points per game while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range, was shut down by Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday during the four-game sweep. Holiday used his size and strength to make things difficult for Lillard, who averaged just 18.5 points versus the Pelicans and shot 35.2 percent overall and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Critics around the league believe the Blazers need to shake up the roster and trade either Lillard or shooting guard C.J. McCollum. There’s no doubt both are prolific scorers, but the team has not advanced far in the playoffs with Lillard and McCollum as the main offensive cogs and both guys tend to be defensive liabilities in the rugged Western Conference.
Lillard, however, doesn’t agree with that narrative and reiterated to Michael Scotto of The Athletic he wants to retire in Portland.
“That would be an honor to be a lifetime Blazer,” Lillard told Scotto. “Not a lot of guys get to play for one organization for their entire career. Obviously, I love playing for the Blazers. I love living in the city. I feel like I’ve established a connection with the people and the culture of the city just as much as I’ve done on the basketball court, so that’s important. But, as we know, it’s a business and a lot of times organizations have other plans, and sometimes players change their stance on that. But to be a lifetime Blazer, that would be great. I’m all on board for it.
“I think as far as me and C.J., our friendship is so strong that it allows us to play really well together on the court, and we get our job done every night. But when you talk about winning the championship and competing in the playoffs against teams like Golden State, Houston and San Antonio and all those guys, it’s a group effort. We’ve all got to be able to count on each other to compete at that level. Our team, we’ve got a lot of guys that care and a lot of guys that work hard. We’ve just got to keep improving.”