LAS VEGAS — Damian Lillard denied a report that he was soon to ask for a trade away from the Portland Trail Blazers but expressed that he’s conflicted on the matter and is hoping big changes take him off the fence.
“Right now I’m not sure what I’m going to do. What I can say is my intentions and my heart has always been set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career,” Lillard said after Team USA practice Friday at UNLV. “But I think over time, you want to win it all. And I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers uniform. But we all have to be making strides toward that.”
Earlier Friday, basketball website TrueHoop reported Lillard would ask for a trade in the near future. Lillard has been having conversations about the Blazers’ offseason plans with team governor Jody Allen and general manager Neil Olshey. Lillard plans to have dinner in Vegas with Olshey and new Blazers coach Chauncey Billups later on Friday, a meeting that had been previously scheduled.
Lillard, who is under contract until 2024, has made it clear what his message to management is. Though the team has made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, the Blazers have been eliminated in the first round in four of the past five years. After turning 31 on Thursday, Lillard is making it known he isn’t OK with the status quo.
“The best way to put it is to be more urgent about what our next step is and how we move forward,” Lillard said. “We’re not a bad team, we’re a winning team. We’ve got a great environment, we’ve got a great city, we’ve got great fans, there’s a lot of positives.
“I just think we’ve reached that point where it’s like, OK, it’s not enough. Do we actually want to win it all? Is that what we’re shooting for? We’ve got to do things to show that. We’ve got to put action behind that. That desire to win at that level — that’s been my only thing this entire time.”
That sentiment and the uncertain way the Blazers will react to it has led rival teams to watch Lillard’s movements and words closely. This led to a frenzy on Friday when another report about his situation hit social media.
The star point guard is leaving for Tokyo for three weeks with Team USA on Monday. While he is away, the Blazers will execute the draft, though they currently have no picks, and free agency. Which makes the meeting with Olshey and Billups potentially important.
Lillard said he expects to be in a Blazers uniform next season but also left himself a lot of wiggle room. “I haven’t made any firm decision on what my future will be,” he said. “A lot of things go into it.”