The Portland Trail Blazers faced a whole heck of a lot of uncertainty this summer. After the team was eliminated from the postseason in the first round by the Denver Nuggets, All-Star guard Damian Lillard made it clear he wasn’t happy with how things were going in the only place he’s called home during his NBA career.
Lillard’s primary complaint was that he did not think the team’s roster was good enough, and now that he’s 31, he understands the window is closing on his prime years to be the man on a championship team. But ultimately, he stayed, and so far this season, he’s made clear that his intention is to stay with the Blazers.
In a new piece by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Lillard lays out some of the reasons why he decided to stay. Among them was watching Giannis Antetokounmpo stay in Milwaukee and win a championship with the Bucks, which Lillard said was eye-opening.
“Usually when people win championships and start getting all emotional, I’m always wondering if they’re really moved like that,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “Is that real emotions? Does he really feel like that? Because I’ve been in big moments and people would expect me to be emotional and I’m not. So I question the authenticity of how emotional they are in some situations.
“But when I watched Giannis, he was really looking around like, ‘Damn, what if I really left Milwaukee? This was worth it.’ So for me, I put myself in his shoes. Sometimes it seems like this is impossible and it’s never going to happen, and I’m sure he was there before, too.
“If I was to get that championship for Portland, I would cry, bruh. Bruh, on the spot. I would really cry, bro. I want to win a championship here. And because of how strongly I feel about that, I don’t know how rewarding it would feel for me at this point if I won somewhere else. Winning it here would be a lifetime achievement for me.”
This does track with something Lillard has made clear over the years: While he wants to win a ring, his strong preference is to do it with the Blazers. Both the team and its star player have gotten off to rocky starts this year — Portland sits at 3-4 and Lillard is putting up career-worst scoring and efficiency marks — but as long as Lillard is able to find his form, the Blazers are going to feel good about their chances to compete once April rolls around.