Damian Lillard denied a recent report Friday that he was expected to demand a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. “It’s not true,” Lillard said, while adding that he expects to be in a Blazers uniform next season. However, he did couch those comments by saying that he hasn’t made a firm decision regarding his future. Lillard, who just turned 31, signed a contract extension with the Blazers in 2019 and is under contract through the 2023-24 season.
“I woke up to those reports,” Lillard said after a practice session with Team USA in Las Vegas. “You know a lot of people reaching out to me. But it’s not true. I’ll start off the rip and say it’s not true. I said the last time I spoke to you guys that a lot of things are being said and it hasn’t come from me. Number one, it’s not true. And secondly I’ll also say that I haven’t made any firm decision on what my future will be. So there’s really no need for anybody else to speak for me or report this or report that.”
The report in question came from Henry Abbott of True Hoop, and it suggested that Lillard would be asking for a move in the coming days. But while Lillard denied the report, he did make it clear that he thinks the Blazers need to improve — from top to bottom.
“I think that’s the stage we’re at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organization must look in the mirror because we’ve constantly come up short,” Lillard said in an interview with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. “We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we’re doing is not working and it’s not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on.”
Lillard was particularly unhappy with the fact that the Blazers were unable to advance past the short-handed Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs this season.
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“Our environment has always been great. We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat,” Lillard said. “I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, ‘Man, this just isn’t going to work.’ We’re not winning the championship, but we’ve got a successful organization. We’re not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided. We have positive seasons; we just don’t end up with a championship.”
It appears as though a major crisis in Portland has been averted — for now. By denying that he plans to ask for a trade, Lillard showed that his relationship with the organization isn’t beyond repair. But, like any star player in his prime, he wants to see the team around him improve. If the team is unable to take strides toward that improvement, perhaps Lillard’s stance regarding a trade will change.