Damian Lillard has told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he is thinking about his future and that of the Portland Trail Blazers differently at this juncture of his career than he once did. In an article published today, Haynes questions Lillard about Team USA, his personal career arc, and the Blazers.
The interview does not appear to be in direct response to another piece published this morning by Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, citing a source close to Lillard saying that the All-Star guard will demand a trade out of Portland. The Haynes article indicates that Lillard will address the TrueHoop piece during media availability following Team USA practice today.
After discussion about the national team and criticism over losing two exhibition games, Haynes asked Lillard specifically about his thoughts on the Blazers.
First Lillard spoke of his own outlook and responsibility:
I didn’t come into the league worrying about what others were doing in the organization. I didn’t come in with that type of mentality. But I’ve been active in probably 95% 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 honor 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 organization. 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.
Then he talked about the franchise:
...everybody in this organization 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.
When Haynes asked why this is such a pivotal moment in his relationship with the Blazers, Lillard responded:
There are 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 organization. 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.
The 31-year-old guard has spent all nine seasons in the NBA with the Blazers since Portland selected him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. He’s earned 6 All-Star nods and a half-dozen All-NBA Team nominations (one first-team) while averaging 24.7 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.2 rebounds over 682 appearances.