Damian Lillard: 'I Can't Express My Desire' to Win NBA Title with Trail BlazersMay 17, 2021
Damian Lillard is desperate to win a title. Namely, he's desperate to do it for Portland.
The Trail Blazers star guard told reporters on Sunday he wants this year's postseason to end in a parade:
“Like, I can’t express my desire and how bad I want to win it. I want that more than anything. Not just to say I won a championship. But I want to do it in this city. I want to have a parade on Broadway and ride past El Gaucdamian ho (steakhouse). That’s what I think of. Every time the playoffs is starting, I’m going into it like, ‘Is this going to be the year that we shock the world or that we come up big?”’
The 30-year-old Lillard has led the Trail Blazers to the playoffs in eight straight seasons, including this year's berth as the No. 6 seed, with the team narrowly avoiding the NBA's new play-in tournament. They'll face the Denver Nuggets in the first round.
But Lillard and the Blazers have only made one Western Conference Finals run in that time, losing to the Golden State Warriors in four games in the 2018-19 season.
Lillard is ready for more, and has been peppering teammate Norman Powell—who won a title with the Toronto Raptors two seasons ago—with questions about what it takes to be a championship team.
"We had many conversations about playoff runs, and guys stepping up during runs, and different situations," Powell said. "And the first time we talked about it, it was more about the experience, like the parade and everything. He had a lot of different questions about that, the vibe of it."
Lillard said one piece of advice from Powell stuck.
"A lot of what he said was pretty much stuff I had heard before, but there was one thing he said: 'You gotta defend,'" he noted. "He was talking about how teams end up in the halfcourt in the playoffs, and you have to defend. And once you get your stops, then you have people on your team who can get you a basket when you need a basket. But when it comes down to it, you have to consistently defend."
Defending hasn't been Portland's strong suit this season. The team's 115.3 defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) ranks 29th in the NBA. Portland has two players in Lillard and CJ McCollum who can get buckets, no issues there, but stopping anyone from doing the same to them has been a major issue.
That will likely be the key for Portland this postseason, yet again. If the team can't get stops, they'll struggle to advance.
But much as he wants that chip, Lillard isn't feeling any additional pressure.
"I don’t think there is more [pressure]. I just think we are further along the way, you know?" he said. "This ain't year five. Year five it’s like, 'Alright, it's been five years …' It’s been nine now. So I think that's why it feels like more (pressure), but I don't think it's any different than it has been the last two or three years. I just think because we are further along the way it feels that way."