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Damian Lillard Responds to Critics of Him Saying He Wants to Be with Blazers for Life

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 15, 2022

Damian Lillard (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

All-Star point guard Damian Lillard said he remains committed to playing his entire career with the Portland Trail Blazers despite a lot of people questioning that decision.

Lillard discussed his view of the situation Tuesday on The Dave Pasch Podcast (via Casey Holdahl of the Blazers' official website):

"Yes, I do [plan on being a Blazer for life]. I've had my share of people saying, 'Man, you got to get out of there! You've got to do this, you've got do to that.' But I'm the type of person that I'm never going to be marching to the beat of nobody else's drum. I'm gonna always do what I feel like is in my best interest and that I really feel in my heart. I've said this on many different occasions, they call it, 'He's being loyal!' and 'Loyalty this, loyalty that,' and I'm like, I'm naturally a loyal person but I do have a level of loyalty to the organization, but this loyalty that they're talking about is ultimately to who I am as a person. I'm being loyal to who I am and not getting beside myself, because I'm somebody that, I believe what I believe. I think I can get it done. Now, everybody else might say, 'There's no way the Blazers will ever win. They need to do this, they need to do that.' But that's just not how I feel about the situation. I feel like we'll have a chance to win, I feel like that moment is going to come, I feel like that opportunity is going to come. And that's that."

The 32-year-old California native was selected by the Blazers with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA draft. He won Rookie of the Year honors at the end of his debut campaign and has proceeded to make six All-Star appearances.

After a steady growth period, it appeared Portland was on the verge of a breakthrough when it reached the 2019 Western Conference Finals before getting swept by the Golden State Warriors.

The Blazers haven't been able to match that success in subsequent years, getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round in both 2020 and 2021. They missed the playoffs altogether last season.

A roster shakeup occurred amid the fading results, including the departure of Lillard's longtime backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, in a February trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Lillard has also been the focus of trade rumors at times, but the former Weber State standout told CNBC's Jabari Young in April that he believes there's mutual interest in him staying for the long haul.

"If they came to me and they wanted to trade me—I'm not going to fight them on wanting to trade me," Lillard said. "I don't want to be anywhere I'm not wanted. But I don't think that's the case."

He added: "I have no plans of not being a Portland Trail Blazer. I want to be here, and I think they want me here."

That's been his message every step of the way, and it doesn't appear likely to change despite outside pressure urging him to seek new opportunities elsewhere.

While it's good news for the Blazers, it also puts more pressure on the front office to continue rebuilding the roster around Lillard to push toward a championship run while he's still at or near the peak of his powers.

Portland tips off the 2022-23 season Oct. 19 when it visits the Golden 1 Center to face the Sacramento Kings.

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