Blazers' Damian Lillard Plans to Play for Team USA in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2019

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard reacts after being called for a foul against the Denver Nuggets in the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said he wants to play for Team USA at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

"I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing," Lillard told James McKern of news.com.au in an interview released Tuesday.

The 29-year-old Oakland native was on the United States' preliminary roster for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but he withdrew from consideration in July.

Now the question is whether Lillard, and other players who dropped out of the World Cup before and during training camp, will receive invitations to the Olympic roster.

Team USA struggled with a makeshift group well below the dominant program's usual standard. As the Americans limped toward a seventh-place finish, their worst showing in a major tournament, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo commented strongly on the players who withdrew.

"I can only say, you can't help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn't show up," Colangelo told reporters. "I'm a firm believer that you deal with the cards you're dealt. All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players.

"So with that kind of a hand you feel reasonably confident that you're going to be able to put a very good representative team on the court. No one would have anticipated the pull-outs that we had."

U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs took less of a hard-line stance when asked about the Olympic roster after beating Poland in the seventh-place game last week.

"This isn't really the time to even think about that," he said. "It's 10 months away."

Assuming Colangelo's frustration fades, Lillard will be a strong contender to make the Team USA roster as part of a backcourt rotation that could be led by the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry and Houston Rockets' James Harden.

But first, the Blazers star will look to lead his NBA team through a newly wide-open Western Conference with Curry's Warriors no longer a dominant force with Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson injured.

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