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Damian Lillard Staying Strong During Extended Absence

Portland’s superstar isn’t playing, but he’s still connected with the team and the game.

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard isn’t going to play for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, but he’s staying active in mind and body during the extended break from the team and the game. This week Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports ran a lengthy interview with Lillard, covering a wide range of topics, both personal and professional. Lillard talked about his surgery, recovery, his approach to the game, and his view on the Blazers, now and in the near future. It’s the most extensive interview Lillard has given all season.

Here are a few highlights.

On his time off during injury rehab:

I haven’t had a chance in 10 years to take a step back and let my mind relax and to let my body fully recover and relax and have a true opportunity to ramp up and train and start back with my foundation, who I am as a player and spend time with my family, my kids and my wife. So, I feel strong, mentally and physically. I still got six, seven months before next season. I feel great.

On his abdominal pain:

It’s a good feeling working out the other day and the coaching staff kept asking what I was thinking about because I had a smile on my face. I was just like, ‘Damn, I got so used to playing with that pain that I didn’t realize how limited I was and how much I was just catering to playing around it.’ So, I’m definitely excited to be playing at 100 percent right now and playing free.”

On his assessment of the Trail Blazers:

I also think we’ve taken some steps back as an organization, obviously with the moves that we’ve made [at the trade deadline]. But we’ve also positioned ourselves to do something that we haven’t been able to do since I’ve been here, which is we’ve opened up money, we got picks, we got a $22 million trade exception, we got a $6 million trade exception, we got the full mid-level, we got the biannual. We have an opportunity, and we got flexibility. There are guys we can bring in that can make us a team that can compete for a championship, but we have to execute that.”

Lillard also talks about his reaction to making the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, whether he’s worried about getting surpassed by younger stars, his continuing desire for a title in Portland, being 31 now, and his approach to next season. It’s a definite must-read for anyone who wants in the public parts of Lillard’s mind right now.