Daryl Morey may dream about it, but Damian Lillard has no intention of leaving Portland.
Lillard has been the focus of trade rumors and Philadelphia’s dream scenario for a Ben Simmons trade all offseason. But while everyone else was working the trade machine, new Portland coach Chauncey Billups talked to Lillard, and the result was Lillard saying he wants to stay in Portland, the All-Star told Jason Quick of The Athletic.
“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.
That is even more direct than Lillard’s “going out on my shield” comments on media day about not wanting to be traded. The thing that led to his renewed commitment to the Pacific Northwest was conversations with his new coach Billups, Lillard said.
“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.”
This is where we are obligated to point out Lillard could change his mind if the Trail Blazers, as predicted, end up in the play-in tournament and/or get unceremoniously bounced in the first round of the playoffs next spring. Lillard is not getting younger, and that urge to chase a ring could become overwhelming. Lillard would be far from the first star to profess his undying love to a city/coach/organization/fan base only to change his mind down the line.
But a lot of superstars would have forced their way out of Portland already — nobody should ever question Lillard’s commitment to Portland. Don’t question the bonds he’s built there, the work he has done in the community. Don’t question how he wants a Kobe/Duncan one-team career. Lillard hasn’t had a wandering eye; he wants to make this work.
Billups is another tie keeping Lillard a Trail Blazer.
Whatever happens months and years down the line, Lillard is not pushing his way out of Portland. Other teams will continue to monitor the situation and hope (much as they are doing with Bradley Beal in Washington, who also seems like he wants to stay), but Lillard is a Trail Blazer. The greatest Trail Blazer. And he’s not looking to change that.