NBA players get paid from the start of the season, from late October through mid-April. When the sports world turns its eyes closely to the NBA for the playoffs, the players are no longer getting checks from the team, at that point they are playing for pride/brand/playoff bonuses.
Damian Lillard rallied the Portland players this year to do something different with their playoff bonuses from the first round — turn them over to team staff to reward them.
The day after the Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs with a disappointing sweep at the hands of Golden State, Lillard still had one task to perform: Getting the rest of the team to sign off on donating their playoff checks…
As captain for the past two seasons, Lillard has made it clear to his teammates that their playoff checks should be donated to the Blazers’ support staff, which consists of everybody from massage therapists to the trainers at the practice facility.
“We divide our playoff shares to give to the people who we work so closely with because they spend as much time away from their families as we do, and they are just about as invested as we are,’’ Lillard said after the season. “They also do as much as possible to make our lives easier, even if it makes theirs more difficult – all while making far less. So it’s a further way of showing appreciation beyond a thank your or a handshake.’’
Portland got a check for $223,864 from the league as a playoff bonus, which is to be divided among the players (the deeper a team goes in the postseason, the more money they get, up to a few hundred thousand). Divided up that would have been about $16,000 per player — not nothing, but that lowest paid player on the Blazers roster this season was Tim Quarterman at $543,471. Safe to stay a few thousand dollars (whatever it breaks down to) matters more to that staff than it does the players.
This is just a very Lillard thing to do. He was awarded the Pro Basketball Writers Association’s Magic Johnson Award this season for the player who combines being good on the court with cooperation with the media off it. (Note: I am a member of the PBWA.) He’s the face of the Blazers in the community, and just someone who by his nature is a good person trying to connect with the fans. Donating the playoff checks is just an extension of who he is.