A little over one week after undergoing abdominal surgery, Portland Trail Blazers superstar guard Damian Lillard said Saturday that he's "not in a rush" to return to action.
Lillard addressed the media Saturday for the first time since undergoing surgery to fix an abdominal issue that had impacted him throughout the 2021-22 season:
Portland Trail Blazers @trailblazers
"My number one goal is to win a championship and I need to be in the best form of myself to make that happen."<a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dame_lillard</a> speaks to the media for the first time since his surgery: <a href="https://t.co/38jA6Xl9yx">https://t.co/38jA6Xl9yx</a> <a href="https://t.co/wSizFKh857">pic.twitter.com/wSizFKh857</a>
The six-time All-Star reiterated that the plan remains for doctors to reevaluate him six to eight weeks after the surgery to determine the best course for his return.
Lillard also said his "No. 1 goal" is to win a championship, and he noted he has to be healthy and at his best for that to be possible.
The 31-year-old has been one of the NBA's premier guards over the past several seasons, averaging 25 points per game or more in six consecutive campaigns entering 2021-22.
In 29 games this season, Lillard was averaging 24.0 points, 7.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 three-pointers made. He shot 40.2 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc.
With Lillard missing time and guard CJ McCollum recently returning from an 18-game absence (collapsed lung), this season has been a challenge for Portland.
The Blazers are 10th in the Western Conference at 19-26, meaning they would be part of the postseason play-in tournament if the regular season ended today.
Lillard was asked Saturday about the possibility of Portland playing for a better draft pick rather than a playoff spot, and he responded by saying it "wouldn't make sense" for him to return this season if that were the case:
Orlando Sanchez @orlandokgw
"If we're going to play for a draft pick, then it wouldn't make sense...because I'm not going to play for a draft pick. I'm just not capable of that"<br><br>Damian Lillard to <a href="https://twitter.com/jwquick?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jwquick</a> when asked if he would play if the team was focused on moving up draft<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RipCity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RipCity</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dame_Lillard</a> <a href="https://t.co/bT5oj46aPx">pic.twitter.com/bT5oj46aPx</a>
Every indication is that head coach Chauncey Billups is trying to stretch Portland's playoff streak to nine consecutive seasons in his first year as the team's coach, though.
McCollum will be the go-to guy until Lillard can return, while guard Anfernee Simons, who is having a career season, will continue to fill in for Lillard.