Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard met the media outside of his annual basketball camp, describing mounting frustration with losing in the playoffs, as well as his desire to make the Finals. His answer to how the team can go about making progress is to continue improving the roster.
I want to win a championship. I think it’s that simple. Like I just said, I don’t—I’ve been in the playoffs—after my rookie year, I’ve been in the playoffs every year, and the playoffs is fun. I’ve been to the second round twice. Like, just winning one series, I felt good. Winning one series and getting to the next round, and I’ve been sent home twice in the first round. But, for me, I’m invested into each season. I go into each season fully invested and fully committed and fully believing that we gon’ go in here and shock the world.
That’s always what I think, but at this point it’s like we need a breakthrough. I’m ready for—get to the Western Conference Finals, get to the Finals because I’m tired of watching it. You know what I’m saying? I feel like I spend a lot of time working on my game and wanting to see other people do well, like, all the things that send you in the right direction and give you a chance to get it done, but we just keep falling short and falling short. Each year it bothers me more, so I’m always trying to find things and find ways, like ‘What can I do different? How can I change this? How can I be better about that?’ And the reason why it’s like that is because I want to win it all. I’m never going to go into it thinking that I’m not going to win it all.
Is that why you’ve been more vocal this offseason, or the last few offseasons?
Yeah, I mean, like I said, I do my job and I’ll allow them to do they job, but it comes a point where we have to improve—individually with what we have, but we also have to improve as everybody else improves their roster. So it’s what it is.
That said, what do you think about the roster right now, as is?
If our roster is as it is now, then I’m gon’ go out there and go to war how we are. I’m going to go out there believing that we can get it done, regardless of what the roster says. I’m going to believe that, and I can say that because I truly believe it in my heart that we can go out there and get it done. But I know what gives us a better chance and that’s continuing to improve your roster just like everybody else does. The best teams out there are trying to improve their roster, so I think we should be trying to do the same, and I think we are.
From a financial standpoint, the Trail Blazers are presently stymied from making any major signings, with a whopping team payroll of $138.2 million heading into the 2017-18 season, as currently constructed. Portland’s best chance to move the needle is via trade. Both Lillard and teammate CJ McCollum have actively reached out to New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who appears likely to be moved this summer.