Damian Lillard on Retiring with Blazers: 'I Just Don't Want to Go Elsewhere'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard brings the ball up court against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said Friday he shares similar feelings with the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal about wanting to stay with one franchise.

Lillard told Fred Katz and Jason Quick of The Athletic he often catches up with Beal, a popular target ahead of the March 25 NBA trade deadline, and they usually discuss their desires to find success with their current teams rather than move around to chase a championship.

"I know how he feels because I get that all the time: 'You should go here; you should go there ...' from all kinds of different people, and I know he gets it too," Lillard said. "We've had that conversation. ...

"He has the same feeling about it as I have: I just don't want to go elsewhere. This is our ninth year. We've been so invested in this to where it's like, this is what it is. This is where I want to get it done. And I'm sure he feels that same way."

The All-Star guards were both selected in the top 10 of the 2012 draft. Beal went third to the Wizards out of Florida and the Weber State star was taken sixth by the Blazers, and they've stayed with those teams ever since. That type of stability in the current free-agent and trade-driven era is uncommon.

For example, the other four players taken within the first six picks that year—Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dion Waiters and Thomas Robinson—have combined to play for 14 NBA organizations, and the number is even higher if you count Robinson's time playing in other leagues.

Beal explained to Katz and Quick that he understands the desire of players to seek out a title later in their career if things didn't go well with their first squad, but he believes there's something special about sticking with one team and trying to make it work:

"We just wanna grind it out, whatever it looks like. Yeah, it's tough. It's not easy, but I feel like we'd appreciate winning a championship knowing we grinded it out versus—I don't wanna say, a championship (elsewhere) wouldn't matter, because a championship is a championship, but I feel like the weight of it and kinda maybe the morale behind it would feel greater knowing you duked it out, you grinded it out and it willed you guys the way to a championship."

Lillard added: 'I understand his battle, and he understands my battle."

Even if Beal is not moved this month, the speculation will likely grow louder in the offseason since he can become an unrestricted free agent by using a player option after the 2021-22 season. Meanwhile Lillard is locked into the Blazers for the foreseeable future.

The 30-year-old Oakland native signed a four-year, $176.3 million extension in 2019 that runs through the 2024-25 campaign.

So he'll remain with Portland into his mid-30s and, based on his comments, it sounds like he'll try to remain with the Blazers for his entire career.