Portland is essentially running it back this season with the core of the team that won 49 games and was the three seed last season, then got swept by the Pelicans in the first round. They retained Jusuf Nurkic and made some nice additions — picking up Seth Curry will help — but strapped by bad contracts there were no bold moves.
However, there were rumors of potential bold moves floating around the league — trading Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum and finding another star somewhere. It didn’t happen. Moving bad contracts this summer was particularly hard.
However, that was enough to get Michael Scotto of The Athletic to ask Lillard about it.
“That would be an honor to be a lifetime Blazer,” Lillard told The Athletic at the NBA 2K launch in New York. “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.”
Portland fans (most of them, anyway) and the front office would love for that to happen. However, if there is a sense the team is in a real rut, all options will be considered.
The Blazers want to find a way to keep the backcourt of Lillard and C.J. McCollum together while getting the team to take a step forward into elite status. It’s just not that easy to do. Although GM Neil Olshay added some shooting this season, and maybe Zach Collins/Nurkic can take steps forward along the front line, the Blazers are a team in the big middle of the West. They could finish with the three seed again, they could miss the playoffs if a couple of things don’t go their way, or they could finish anywhere in between — there are at least eight teams, maybe 10 (depending on what you think of the Clippers and Mavericks) vying for the six remaining playoff slots in the West. The margin for error is small.
If things don’t go well, or if the Blazers make the playoffs and again get swept out in the first round, trade rumors for Lillard — and moreso for McCollum — will be back with force next summer. No matter how much the Blazers front office or Lillard himself say, he will forever be in Portland.