NBA

Blazers approach 'not working', says Lillard amid trade speculation

By Sports Desk July 16, 2021

Damian Lillard believes changes need to be made by the Portland Trail Blazers if they are to end their now 44-year wait for an NBA title amid swirling speculation about his future.

A report on Friday suggested star point guard Lillard will request a trade from the Blazers having spent his entire NBA career in Portland.

He will reportedly address those claims during a media availability session for the United States' Olympic basketball team on Friday.

Lillard has been named an All-Star six times in his career and has helped the Blazers reach the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

It is his clutch shooting that has consistently kept Portland in the mix and, since he entered the league in 2012, only Stephen Curry (2,460) and James Harden (2,125) have made more three-pointers than Lillard's 2,051.

Portland reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 but were swept by Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

However, this season's exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in six games was their fourth first-round elimination in five seasons and led to the Blazers parting ways with head coach Terry Stotts. Chauncey Billups is the man now tasked with leading them to a first NBA Finals since 1992 and a first championship since 1977.

Asked by Yahoo Sports if the Blazers have matched his commitment to the franchise, Lillard said: "To make it to the NBA, I had to give it everything I had.

"I was going to do what needed to be done to win games. I didn't come into the league worrying about what others were doing in the organisation. I didn't come in with that type of mentality.

"But I've been active in probably 95 per cent of the games in my career. I've played through injuries, and I've been a part of two rebuilds. I feel like I've experienced everything with the Trail Blazers, and I've worn that jersey as a badge of honour and with a lot of pride and care.

"I never felt like my job was to go in and critique what other people were doing in the organisation. My job was to make sure the team is functioning and trying to lead them to the best results. I've always assumed everybody’s mentality was the same.

"Even when I'm playing well and we come up short at the end of the season, I go home and the first thing I do is look in the mirror and tell myself we didn't win a championship. Or if I didn't play as well as I should have, I've had to look in the mirror and tell myself that my performance was unacceptable and I have to do better. And then you go do better.

 

"I think that's the stage we're at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my team-mates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organisation must look in the mirror because we've constantly come up short.

"We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we're doing is not working and it's not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on."

On why he feels this is a pivotal juncture in his career, Lillard added: "There are a few reasons: One being I'm not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great.

"We're not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, 'Man, this just isn't going to work'.

"We're not winning the championship, but we've got a successful organisation. We're not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided.

"We have positive seasons; we just don't end up with a championship. So I feel like at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you've always done, you'll always be where you've always been.

"Just like I hold myself accountable for a bad performance or hold myself accountable to make sure that I work my a** off when I’m training, I must be accountable for saying what needs to be said even if it's not popular. And that just comes with age.

"When I was younger, I felt like maybe I'll be out of place, but I feel like I've earned the right to say we must do better. We must do better if we want to win on that level."

Related items

  • 'I was upset' – Kevin Durant looks to move forward from the Brooklyn Nets' offseason drama 'I was upset' – Kevin Durant looks to move forward from the Brooklyn Nets' offseason drama

    Kevin Durant said he’s looking forward to another season with the Brooklyn Nets, instead of looking back on a tumultuous offseason that saw the NBA superstar request a trade and reportedly ask for his coach and general manager’s dismissal.

    "Can we move on past that at some point?" Durant told reporters following Friday’s practice. "I know it’s an interesting story. I know that it took up most of the offseason and drama sells. I get that, but I didn’t miss any games, I didn’t miss any practices.

    "I’m still here, so hopefully we can move past that."

    Durant is back for a third season in Brooklyn after eventually rescinding the trade demand that created a firestorm around NBA circles for much of the summer. The 2013-14 league MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP acknowledged during Monday’s media day that he’s no longer at odds with the organisation after ironing out his differences in a lengthy discussion with team owner Joe Tsai in August.

    "I was upset," Durant stated. "And as a family, they understood that I was upset, some of the stuff they agreed with. So we talked about it, and it was over a couple of months, a couple of weeks, towards the end of that where we talked about it.

    "We came out and we voiced all our concerns about how we can all be better. And it just worked out from there, and I’m glad I’m here now."

    Durant refused to expound on the rumours that he also requested the firings of head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks following the Nets’ disappointing and injury-plagued 2021-22 season.

    "There’s a lot of (stuff) that was inaccurate," he said. "But it’s like I don’t want to go through it right now."

    Nash also said earlier this week that he didn’t entirely believe the reports that Durant had asked for his ousting.

    "I never thought that was 100 per cent," he said. "It’s not black and white like that, so there was a lot of factors. A lot of things behind the scenes. A lot of things that are reported are not 100 per cent accurate. So you get fragmented bits of truth. You get things that are flat out not true. It happens. So I never really got caught up in all that stuff.”

    With his differences behind him, Durant said he’s eagerly awaiting the new season and the chance for the Nets to erase the memory of a turbulent 2021-22 campaign that saw the franchise trade disgruntled All-Star James Harden midseason and had Kyrie Irving limited to just 29 games, in large part due to New York City’s vaccination requirement that prevented the star point guard from playing most of the team’s home games.

    The Nets also head into 2022-23 with a healthy Ben Simmons, the key player Brooklyn received from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Harden trade. The three-time All-Star has yet to appear in a game with the Nets and missed all of last season due to a lingering feud with his former team and a back injury that later required surgery.

    "When you look at the grand scheme of things, we haven’t been healthy at all for two years," Durant said. "Each playoffs we didn’t have major guys, (they) miss minutes. Not just role players, but guys that make a lot of money.

    "When you got $50 million dollars on your bench this last playoffs with Joe [Harris] and Ben and then the playoffs before that, I want to see what our team looks like in full, with guys being healthy, with us having a little bit of continuity. So we’ll see what happens."

  • Boston Celtics and Blake Griffin agree one-year deal Boston Celtics and Blake Griffin agree one-year deal

    The Boston Celtics and veteran forward Blake Griffin have agreed to a one-year contract, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday.

    Griffin, 33, will add depth for a team that has endured a series of injuries in the frontcourt before the 2022-23 season has even begun.

    Danilo Gallinari, Boston's top free agent acquisition of the offseason, suffered a torn ACL in August, while starting center Robert Williams III underwent knee surgery last week, keeping him away from basketball activities for at least two months.

    A six-time All-Star selection, Griffin averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 56 games with the Brooklyn Nets last season.

    Griffin's signing comes in the wake of coach Ime Udoka's year-long suspension for an inappropriate workplace relationship that is still clouded in mystery.

    The Celtics tip off their season on October 18 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

  • Wiseman shines as Warriors beat Wizards in Japan, but Hachimura the star attraction Wiseman shines as Warriors beat Wizards in Japan, but Hachimura the star attraction

    The Golden State Warriors began their pre-season with a 96-87 win against the Washington Wizards in Saitama, Japan thanks to an impressive showing from James Wiseman.

    A sold-out Saitama Super Arena watched on as Wiseman top-scored with 20 points from almost 24 minutes on the court.

    However, it was understandably Japan's own Rui Hachimura who garnered the most noise from an adoring crowd, registering 13 points for the Wizards and, like Wiseman, a game-high nine rebounds.

    After the game, coach of the defending NBA champion Warriors Steve Kerr conceded it had not been the highest-quality contest due to it being so early in pre-season, but told reporters how pleased he was with Wiseman's performance.

    "James has had a really good few days of practice," he said of the 21-year-old. "His understanding of spacing and defensive communication, being in the right place, he just has a much better sense of the NBA game now than he did a couple of years ago.

    "He's been putting a ton of work in, last year despite injury, he was studying and watching tape and learning from our older guys, so I couldn't be happier for James."

    Kerr referenced the "really good atmosphere" and also spoke about the adulation received by Washington's Hachimura, and the potential benefits for the NBA's global appeal as a result.

    "You see how popular he is," he said. "When he spoke to the crowd they went crazy, and it was a great moment.

    "The game has been a global one for a long time but the more international stars we can get, the more popular the game becomes in that particular player's country, so hopefully we'll have more and more players coming from Japan to the NBA.

    "You can see it's a basketball-crazed country, people love it here and it's fun to be a part of."

    A second game between the two teams in Saitama will be played on Sunday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.