Damian Lillard: I Won't Play in NBA Restart If Blazers Don't Have Playoff Hopes

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) brings the ball up court in the first half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said Tuesday he won't play if the NBA's plan to resume the 2019-20 season doesn't give the team a chance to qualify for the playoffs.

Lillard told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes:

"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there."

The Blazers were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference when the season was halted March 11.

Lillard explained to Haynes he's all-in if the NBA's plan calls for finishing the regular season or a play-in tournament to determine the final seeds in each conference. He doesn't think it's fair the Blazers could fall short when they were supposed to have 16 games left to play, though.

The Blazers were one of the NBA's most disappointing teams for much of the campaign in part because of injuries to the frontcourt tandem of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.

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They were scheduled to return for the stretch run, however, and the signing of Carmelo Anthony gave Portland an added scoring punch to support Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Lillard thinks his team deserves an opportunity to show what it could be at full strength, per Haynes:

"It would suck not to get in the playoffs because our thing was, we had fought ourselves back into position to get a spot. We had our starting center and starting power forward coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason. Now, they're healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody's rusty. So now, they won't be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody's rusty, [expletive], we can come in here and beat everybody.

"I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone. It's going to be hard to get going with no fans, you've been off all this time and some people are just ready for summer like, '[Expletive] it, I haven't played in a long time and the season is basically over to me. Do I really care like I cared before?' It's going to be a lot of those factors going on and that presents a lot of room for a team to sneak some [expletive]. Like, really mess around and knock some teams off and then, 'Oh, they're in the Western Conference finals.' It's room for that with this situation. So the fact that it's possible and we wouldn't get an opportunity at that, that's weak to me. I ain't getting no younger."

The 29-year-old five-time All-Star selection said he's not trying to take anything away from the Grizzlies, who are led by Rookie of the Year contender Ja Morant. He just wants a chance to compete for a berth and a potential playoff clash with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I just feel like that would be the matchup people want to see," Lillard told Yahoo Sports.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to make a final decision about how to resume the season or whether to cancel the remainder of it by mid-June.

That leaves about three weeks to determine how to handle the playoff seeding, making sure the medical side of the plan is prepared amid the pandemic and getting teams back into training camps with the Disney World complex in Orlando reportedly the leading candidate to host games.

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