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Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum Talk Social Distancing in Return to Blazers Facility

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard (0) and CJ McCollum (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Portland Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum said the initial excitement of returning to the team's practice facility in early May has worn off and now they want further information about the NBA's return-to-play plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Lillard told ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz the "whole first week was a breath of fresh air" despite the social-distancing guidelines that kept players apart while they worked out on the court.

"The second week everyone is like, 'Alright, this is kind of weird,'" Lillard said in an interview released Thursday. "The excitement is gone and now it's, 'What going on?'"

McCollum is also seeking answers, per Arnovitz.

"At some point, it would be nice to know what we're training for and how we should be training," he said. "Am I training to face playoff teams or am I training for a season that starts in December?"

Portland owned a 29-37 record when play was halted March 11, leaving the Blazers 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

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The NBA hasn't made a final decision about how the season would continue if the COVID-19 situation eventually allows play to resume. The plan, whether it's a truncated finish to the regular season, a play-in tournament for the final playoff spots or something else, is going to directly impact the Blazers.

That's because Lillard previously told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes he's going to opt out if the format doesn't give Portland a chance to compete for a postseason berth.

"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 in there," he said.

The Blazers could be a sleeper if given the chance to compete in the playoffs with the frontcourt tandem of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins expected to return from injuries to join Lillard, McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside.

For now, however, there are still more questions than answers as Portland and other teams around the NBA return to their facilities for social-distanced training sessions.


Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.

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