Damian Lillard Explains What It'd Take to Leave Blazers; Talks Pros and Cons

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 10, 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

Damian Lillard takes great pride in knowing that his name has been synonymous with Portland Trail Blazers basketball for nine seasons.

In an interview with Lindsey Wisniewski of NBC Sports Northwest, Lillard explained why he's always brushed back against calls for him to play in a major media market and what it would take for him to leave Portland:

"I think, for every person that says you know I want to see him on the big stage, and I want to see him go to a bigger market and all these things, of course those things have pros, but nobody ever wants to think about the cons. If you take that step and it's not what it seems to be, and it doesn't work out, or an injury happens, and you haven't established as much of a rapport with that team, and they chose one guy over the next guy and now you're traded to a third team, things can fall apart. That may never happen, but it's just a lot of things you can't control. You got to consider both sides. But for me, it would have to come down to my team saying look, we're going in a different direction, and we don't want to hold you hostage, basically, and what route do you want to go."

Lillard has consistently expressed his desire to be part of an organization that builds its own identity rather than join an already established team to chase a championship.

After agreeing to a supermax extension worth $196 million over four years to stay with Portland in 2019, Lillard told Adam Caparell of Complex that leaving would have felt like a waste of his time there.

"To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?" he said. "If I go play with three other stars, I don't think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?"

Coming out of Weber State in 2012, the Blazers selected Lillard with the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft. He made an immediate impact by winning the Rookie of the Year Award, but the team was still rebuilding and missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record.

The Blazers have made the postseason the past seven seasons, including an appearance in the 2019 Western Conference Finals.

Lillard's evolution as one of the most unstoppable scorers in the NBA has coincided with Portland's run of sustained success. He is statistically the best clutch player in the league this season, shooting 19-of-27 overall (9-of-13 from three) in the final five minutes of games that are within five points.

Portland finished the first half of this season as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference with a 21-14 record. The team did that despite only having CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic available for a combined 25 games because of injuries.