Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard expressed his views on the NBA’s plan to resume the season at a centralized location by stating that he would only participate in games if Portland had a reasonable path to the playoffs. In a conversation with Yahoo Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes, Lillard explained his stance.
“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
The Blazers currently sit 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. If the NBA decides to play an abbreviated regular season schedule that would not provide Portland a realistic chance to catch Memphis, it could mean that the Blazers would compete in those games without Lillard on the court. In response to a theoretical proposal that would result in a handful of regular season contests, the former Weber State star made it clear that he favors a play-in style format for the final playoff spot.
Lillard went on to tell Haynes that he would be there for his team regardless of his potential objections to the NBA’s plan to end its current hiatus.
“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.
Lillard’s belief in the Blazers’ competitive chances appears to be the leading catalyst for his support of a play-in format. Citing the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, Lillard made the case that Portland could push any opponent in a postseason series.
“It would suck not to get in the playoffs because our thing was, we had fought ourselves back into position to get a spot,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “We had our starting center and starting power forward coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason. Now, they’re healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody’s rusty. So now, they won’t be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody’s rusty, [expletive], we can come in here and beat everybody. I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone. It’s going to be hard to get going with no fans, you’ve been off all this time and some people are just ready for summer like, ‘[Expletive] it, I haven’t played in a long time and the season is basically over to me. Do I really care like I cared before?’ It’s going to be a lot of those factors going on and that presents a lot of room for a team to sneak some [expletive]. Like, really mess around and knock some teams off and then, ‘Oh, they’re in the Western Conference finals.’ It’s room for that with this situation. So the fact that it’s possible and we wouldn’t get an opportunity at that, that’s weak to me. I ain’t getting no younger.”
Prior to the NBA’s hiatus, the Blazers amassed a 29-37 record through 66 contests. The Grizzles currently possess a 32-33 record through 65 games.
You can read the full story from Haynes at Yahoo Sports.