Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard is having a career year, averaging 32.1 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. Despite those Herculean achievements, Portland has earned a 31-36 record, leaving them 13th in the NBA’s Western Conference, an afterthought in the 2023 NBA Playoffs race instead of the contender they’d hoped to be.
This week Chris Mannix of SI posted highlights of an extensive interview with Portland’s superstar, getting him to touch on the season, his own personal achievements, future goals, and the arc of his career.
Among a raft of quotes, Mannix relays Lillard’s outlook on making the playoffs this year. The point guard’s aims have not wavered, despite his team’s performances:
“It looks like we’re struggling, but there are [five] teams with 33 or 34 losses,” Lillard says. “So it looks like, ‘Oh, you know, trying to get a play-in spot.’ But everybody’s playing each other and everybody’s in the same thing. We could end up fifth. In a perfect world, it’s possible. Right now, we just have to keep fighting and try to be one of those teams that comes out on the other side.”
Mannix also asked Lillard to describe his relationship with Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin and his assessment of the franchise’s plan going forward. Lillard indicated that he “understands” the plan and values the honesty and transparency he and Cronin share while it’s in process. That said, transparency is not the same as success:
“But there comes a time where we have the right intentions, [but] we’ve got to execute. We have to actually make that come to life, to give ourselves a chance to really make a run at it. And because of who I know him to be, I trust him on that. I don’t ever think he would tell me one thing and then not do it. If anything, it would just be like, ‘We did our best and we couldn’t do it.’”
When Mannix asked what happens if those goals aren’t met, Lillard responded:
“I think I’ve always been firm in my commitment to what I want and to this organization, and that’s where it stands right now,” Lillard says. “But like I said, if it comes time where they say, ‘Man, we can’t get it done, maybe it’s time for us to turn a page,’ I don’t think that will be the case, but we’ll see. Right now, all I know is I want to win.”
The interview is as comprehensive as we’ve seen in this late-season run, and it’s well worth a read.