LAS VEGAS – Damian Lillard has denied asking for a trade to leave the Portland Trail Blazers, but said he is in conflict about it and expects big changes to the team.
“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 in wearing the Trail Blazers uniform 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 the Trail Blazers uniform and we all have to move toward that.”
Earlier Friday, basketball website TrueHoop reported that Lillard would be requesting a trade in the near future. Lillard has been having discussions about the Blazers’ offseason plans with team governor Jody Allen and general manager Neil Olshey. Lillard plans to have dinner in Las 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 his message to management clear. Although the team has made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, the Blazers have been eliminated in the first round in four of the last five years. After turning 31 on Thursday, Lillard is making it known that he disagrees with that status.
“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 are not a bad team, we are a winning team. We have a great atmosphere, we have a great city, we have great fans, there are many positives.
“I think we’ve reached that point where it’s like, okay, it’s not enough. Do we really want to win it all? Is that what we’re looking for? We have to do things to prove it. I have to put action behind it. That desire to win at that level, that’s been the only thing I’ve liked all this time. “
That sentiment and the uncertain way the Blazers will react has led opposing teams to closely watch Lillard’s moves and words. This sparked a frenzy on Friday when another report on his situation hit social media.
The star point guard heads to Tokyo for three weeks with Team USA on Monday. While he’s out, the Blazers will draft the draft, though they currently have no picks or free agency. Which makes the meeting with Olshey and Billups potentially important.
Lillard said he hopes to be in a Blazers uniform next season, but he also left a lot of room for maneuver. “I have not made a firm decision about what my future will be,” he said. “There are many things that come into play.”