Damian Lillard Named 2016 Team USA Olympic Finalist: Latest Details, Reaction

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2016

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

USA Basketball announced Wednesday that Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is a finalist for the national team ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo revealed (via Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears) Lillard personally reached out to him about playing for the national team:

It's a change of heart from the dynamic guard after he sounded disillusioned with USA Basketball upon missing out on the list of finalists the first time around.

"Any time I go into a situation I want to have a real opportunity," Lillard said in January, per the Oregonian's Joe Freeman. "If I'm going to invest myself in something, I want to have a real opportunity in that. Last time I did that, I felt the decision was already made before the decision was made. Whether I played good or bad, I felt like it didn't matter."

Lillard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists for the Blazers this year. The 25-year-old narrowly missed out on making his third All-Star Game. Little was expected of Portland this year following the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, but in large part because of Lillard, the Blazers are just a half-game behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

While Lillard is undoubtedly a deserving finalist for the Olympic roster, making the final cut will be a different matter. U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski can only take 12 players to Rio de Janeiro, and he already has a number of talented backcourt options.

Going off the 2012 squad, Coach K will take five or six guards. Russell Westbrook and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry—barring injury—are locks for the roster. Chris Paul and James Harden are probably ahead of Lillard in the pecking order too. Lillard will be battling with John Wall and Kyrie Irving, the latter of whom played under Krzyzewski at Duke.

At the very least, Lillard will have his foot in the door with the national team. In the event he's passed over for Rio, he should have more opportunities down the road to represent the U.S.