Damian Lillard reaffirmed his commitment to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, seemingly bringing a temporary end to the speculation about his future with the franchise.
"Back for more… #RipCity is my city," the six-time All-Star wrote on Instagram, a little more than one month away from Portland's opener Oct. 20 against the Sacramento Kings.
Lillard is just starting his four-year, $176.3 million supermax extension that he signed in 2019. But he turned 31 in July and has watched the Blazers seemingly hit their ceiling after a fourth first-round playoff exit in five seasons.
Naturally, the dynamic guard is a trade target for teams with championship ambitions.
The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on Aug. 30 that the Philadelphia 76ers have their "eyes set" on Lillard with Ben Simmons potentially on the way out. The Sixers hired Phil Beckner, who has forged an extensive relationship with Lillard, as a consultant this offseason.
TrueHoop's Henry Abbott reported in July the 6'2" playmaker "plans to request a trade," only for him to refute that rumor.
Still, Lillard acknowledged to The Athletic's Christopher Kamrani in late August he was taking a bit of a back seat as the situation played out:
"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. 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. 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."
In his report, Charania wrote the Blazers "have fully focused on continuing to build around Lillard." The extent to which Simmons' stock has drastically declined following the 2021 playoffs also makes it difficult to envision a deal in which the two stars swap teams, thus taking one of the easier hypothetical deals off the table.
Especially with the season so close, the signs have pointed to Lillard staying right where he is for the time being.
Perhaps the arrival of new head coach Chauncey Billlups and the acquisition of Larry Nance Jr. will help Portland climb to the next tier in the Western Conference. In the event things don't drastically change for the better, Lillard's status is likely to once again be a topic of discussion.