Bradley Beal may ultimately prove to be the apple of Brad Stevens’ eye. However, speculation that the Celtics could make a run at Damian Lillard has certainly not been far behind. Hell, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz even went as far as to predict the six-time All-Star would be dealt to the Cs before this coming Christmas.
While that take may be a bit presumptive, you could easily make the argument that Lillard’s tenure in Portland is as shaky as it’s ever been. Yes, the 31-year-old point guard denied previous reports that he was gearing up to request a trade and yes, his teammate CJ McCollum told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he believes Lillard is “all in.” Then again, he’s also been vocal about his concerns over the Trail Blazers’ ability to build a championship contender around him. Not to mention, fan backlash over his input on the organization’s head coaching search likely didn’t help anything.
With his future in Portland uncertain, Lillard took to Instagram to silence rumors he’ll be skipping town — that is, at least for the near future. In an Instagram Live captured by NBA reporter Landon Buford, Lillard was asked if he was leaving PDX (Portland). His answer? “I’m not leaving PDX, not right now at least.”
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Lillard Questions Blazers’ Championship Capabilities
Yes, this leaves the door open for a trade down the road. Yet, it also puts urgency on the Blazers to deliver on their end, ie: build a contender. In other words, we’re in the same place we were before these latest comments, the NBA’s reigning third-leading scorer is simply refreshing people’s minds on where he stands.
Lillard is clearly willing to give it another go with the organization he’s remained so loyal to over the past nine years. At the same time, he’s clearly approaching his wit’s end with the Blazers’ mediocrity — five first-round playoff exits over the last seven seasons.
“I don’t disagree that maybe Chauncey [Billups] can change our team and make us a better team. But I think if you look at our team as it is, I don’t see how you say ‘this is a championship team, we just need a new coach,'” Lillard said in July while training in Las Vegas with Team USA, via Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin. “We need to be more urgent — we have made the playoffs all these years, we’re a good team, we’re not a bad team, but it’s reached the point where we have to ask ‘have we done enough?’”
Lillard: ‘I Know What the Truth Is’
While visiting his Alma mater, Weber State, Lillard chatted with The Athletic’s Christopher Kamrani, where he delved into how he’s gone about dealing with the abundance of trade speculation being tossed his way.
“You get to a position where it’s like, ‘Do I defend myself or do I just say nothing.’ For me, when I’m just hearing stuff that’s not the facts, I’m going to say I didn’t say that,” said Lillard. “Some things I’ve just got to let it be said. I know what the truth is. I know where I stand. It’s not my duty to make the public know … it’s not my job to make them aware of what that is.”
“It definitely has been different. I feel like I’ve handled it like I’ve handled everything. I just let it happen,” he noted. “I let people talk and I just stay true to who I am and I stand on that. If I say something, I stand on what I said. It is what it is, at this point.”