NBA

Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard silences trade rumors by stating ‘I’m not leaving Portland’

USATSI

Damian Lillard’s future with the Portland Trail Blazers was one of the biggest questions of the 2021 offseason. After losing in the first round for the fourth time in five years, reports started to suggest that Lillard might want to leave the only NBA home he’s ever known, and his own public frustrations with the loss to Denver, a team missing several key players including Jamal Murray, gave those reports some credence. 

But with the 2021-22 season beginning, Lillard just tried to put those rumors to rest. In an interview with The Athletic’s Jason Quick, Lillard confirmed that he is not currently looking to leave the Blazers. “Everybody is saying what they think I’m thinking, and what they think I’m going to do, but like, I’m not leaving Portland, you know?” Lillard said. The All-Star point guard acknowledged that he was frustrated with Portland’s stagnancy, but said that new coach Chauncey Billups ultimately convinced him that Portland was where he wanted to be.

“I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”

Lillard publicly advocated for either Billups or then-Lakers assistant Jason Kidd to get the job to be the Blazers’ next head coach once Terry Stotts was fired, and thus far, Lillard seems to be happy with the selection. Portland kicks off their season at home against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, and that will give them a chance to show off their new and improved roster. 

Ultimately, Lillard’s commitment to the Blazers is going to rest on their success as a team. Plenty of stars have publicly declared their intentions to remain in one place but changed their minds after unsuccessful seasons. But the Blazers are hoping that the additions of Larry Nance Jr., Cody Zeller, Tony Snell and Ben McLemore can help improve their defense and stabilize their bench. Portland’s starting lineup was stellar after the Norman Powell trade last season, so if they can just improve defensively and stay healthy, the Blazers should be in for a strong season. Lillard committing to that goal can only help that happen. 



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