The Portland Trail Blazers superstar has faced plenty of criticism for sticking with an organization that has advanced past the second round just once during his tenure. But that helped Lillard and Beal connect over their refusal to leave the franchises that drafted them as lottery picks in 2012.
As much as anything else they've done on the court, it's their loyalties that have defined their careers. Both want to win where they are and don't care much about pleasing those who can't understand it. The two first bonded over that very notion in 2019, when Beal sought advice from Lillard before signing a two-year extension in Washington.
"He was another guy where people were like, 'He has to get out of Washington, and he has to do this and he has to do that ...' and I have people say that about me all the time," Lillard told The Athletic's Fred Katz and Jason Quick. "And I think we share that same mentality, where it's like ... No. It's nothing against people who decide to team up and all that stuff. It's just, this is the route we choose. This is the route we want to go. This is what means something to us. And I think we connect on that."
With the NBA's March 25 trade deadline nearing—and Beal entering the All-Star break as the league's leading scorer (32.9 points per game)—rumors of him leaving D.C. continue to float around.
That's when the 27-year-old finds himself looking to Lillard for inspiration, telling The Athletic his chats with the Blazers icon have been "helpful."
"Those conversations were great," Beal said. "... We always say, it's always easy to jump on the other side with two, three other guys who are really good, but at the same time, that grass isn't always greener. We've seen that. History has shown that.”
There have been a number of superteams just in the last decade that couldn't break through in the postseason.
From Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan creating Lob City with the Los Angeles Clippers to Jimmy Butler joining Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with the Philadelphia 76ers, there's never a guarantee that linking up with other star players will end with a championship.
Those were the conversations Beal and Lillard had with each other prior to Beal's extension. It may have made all the difference.
“It was one of those kind of picking-his brain (conversations)," Beal said. "Because he's somebody who has been committed and loyal, and fought through the grind."