There’s a bond between Gary Payton and Damian Lillard, two once-overlooked guards from a rough and tumble city who rose up and became the second- and third-best players ever to come out of Oakland (Bill Russell and his two handfuls of rings gets the No. 1 slot).
Payton recently talked with Lillard when they were part of a documentary about making the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team and being from Oakland, Payton said. He also gave some advice to Lillard and talked with him about his role in a chaotic situation in Portland. Payton recounted that story to Justin Termine of Sirus XM NBA Radio.
“I said, ‘Look, you are a guy who, we’re built the same. We’re from the same cloth. I didn’t wanna leave Seattle. I didn’t wanna do that. I didn’t care how it went, how it was going, but they [inaudible] to trade me. I said, ‘Let them trade you. Don’t ask for it. Don’t be that way. Don’t be that way. Build it up, be your guy.’
“I don’t like teaming up with other guys to win championships. I just don’t like doing that. He got drafted to Portland. He changed Portland. He turned it around. They were going downhill and he started making ’em come up. They were going to playoffs. He was making big shots. He was doing things. He agrees. He doesn’t want a trade. He’s not gonna ask for a trade. He’s just gonna work with it because a lot of things is going on in Portland.”
Payton said Lillard is frustrated with how things have gone recently in Portland.
“Yes, it is frustrating because he wants to win a championship. He talks to me about that all the time. He’s saying, ‘OG, I got everything you’ve been doing, but I do wanna win a championship.’ And I said, ‘Sometimes that’s gonna have to wait.’ And I said, ‘Then what you wanna do? Do you want to team up with somebody or do you wanna win it on your own?’ And his [answer] comes out quickly. ‘I wanna win it on my own. I’m not built like that.’ And that’s what he’s gonna have to wait for. He’s frustrated because he’s not a loser. He’s a winner. You’re frustrated when you know that you can win basketball games, but if you got the right crew around you, you will win. And he hasn’t had that yet.”
Lillard has emphasized he is not asking for a trade, and the Trail Blazers have made it clear to Daryl Morey and everyone else they are not looking to trade Lillard.
But the 11-15 Trail Blazers are nowhere near the championship Lillard craves. Part of that in the short term is health — Lillard has missed time with an abdominal issue, CJ McCollum is out with a collapsed lung — but even when fully healthy this Portland roster is no threat to Golden State or Phoenix. Whoever becomes the next GM has a lot of work to do to change around this roster into a contender.
At least he knows Lillard is all in.