Lillard Says He Won’t Play This Summer Without Path To Postseason

As the NBA weighs potential formats for the resumption of its 2019/20 season, some pointed comments from Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard may influence the league’s thinking. Speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Lillard said he has no intention of suiting up for games this summer if Portland has no real chance to make the postseason.

“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team,” Lillard told Haynes in a phone interview. “But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that (expletive) in there.”

The NBA is still determining whether it will bring back all 30 teams, only the 16 current playoff clubs, or something in between. The number of teams that resumes play will be tied to the format the league chooses — if just 16 clubs return, advancing directly to the playoffs is the logical move. If lottery teams are asked to participate, the league may give those clubs a chance to make the postseason via a play-in tournament. In that scenario, Lillard would be eager to participate.

“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that (expletive) and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” the Blazers guard said to Yahoo Sports. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”

When the NBA went on hiatus on March 11, the Blazers had moved into ninth place in the Western Conference. With a 29-37 record, they were 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the conference, and Lillard feels as if the team was positioned well for a late-season playoff push.

“We had our starting center (Jusuf Nurkic) and starting power forward (Zach Collins) coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason,” Lillard told Haynes. “Now, they’re healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody’s rusty. So now, they won’t be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody’s rusty, (expletive), we can come in here and beat everybody. I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone.”

On their own, Lillard’s comments may not significantly impact the NBA’s decision-making process, but it seems like a good bet that stars on other lottery teams share his views on the issue. And even if there are some who want to play regardless of the format, their teams may decide to hold them out of action if there’s no upside. For instance, if the Warriors are asked to resume play without a path to the postseason, I don’t expect we’ll see Stephen Curry participate.

Lillard told Haynes that he’s prepared for any scenario, but would be disappointed if the Blazers don’t get a chance to earn a spot in the postseason.

“Right now, I’m just in a space where I want to come back and play. And if we start playing, I’ll be ready to play. But if the league says it’s only taking playoff teams, then I’m off to a head start in my summer training,” he said. “I’ll be pissed off because I feel like they basically stopped the season and went straight into the playoffs. We’re chasing the team with the toughest schedule in the league and we’re in ninth place. That would be weak, but it is what it is.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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18 thoughts on “Lillard Says He Won’t Play This Summer Without Path To Postseason

  1. acarneglia

    I don’t blame Dame. You can’t expect these guys to risk the healths of themselves and possibly their families if they have no reasonable chance of making the postseason.

    • Reflect

      But if he’s still traveling and practicing with the team he’s not any safer on the bench lol.

      If he’s worried about his safety the only move that makes sense is to not go at all.

      • HubcapDiamondStarHalo

        I’m truly glad I’m not the only one who wondered about that logic…

      • signal_lost

        I know, really, he’s a millionaire, he should stay home for, how long would his millions last, 17 years maybe. I mean if you want to be really safe, don’t drive either.
        And he probably shouldn’t even get in a car driven by someone else, that’s even riskier. And training, about in space where it’s weightless. Try turning an ankle up there…

        • Natergater77

          I don’t think Covid is the only health concern he has. I think he’s saying why come back and risk an ACL or other career injury when I won’t have a title opportunity

          • Cedric Lee

            But that’s the same as a regular season. When you’re out of contention you can’t just tell the team you’ve decided not to play any more to avoid injury risk lol.

            • Chucktoad1

              They can and they do. Players get shut down every year because of nagging injuries that they could’ve play through but don’t because their team is out of contention.

              • Cedric Lee

                but i think we’re talking about healthy players herer, not ones with injuries.

    • x%sure

      … using bad logic and iffy courage. Note he cannot commit to staying away, but he’s willing to sneer from the bench.

      But there’s probably more like him, with contingent plans on where to stand.

      I say the best plan is dividing into two tournaments, the first tightly monitored and for any NBA team, the second for the title and rules to be determined, presumably for playoff qualifiers.

  2. signal_lost

    I’m more interested in his comment about 7 to 12. A play in tournament, 6 teams, 2 playoff spots. What would that look like? 5 game round robin with an extra finals game among the top 4? 1 vs 4, 2 vs 3. Fun to think about.

  3. El Don

    I am a very big fan of Lillard, he is unbelievable!… But I must say he is letting himself down with this, his team sucked all year that is why they ain’t in the playoff picture, it would be utterly unfair that they were part of it, he should love hoops enough to play for no reason, if he can’t, well then he goes down in my opinion of him, not that he would care but his behaviour is disappointing to say the least, SMH!

  4. TJECK109

    Wonder how players like him and teams will be treated by the league if players decide to sit out because of covid fears.

    • signal_lost

      That probably depends how things turn out. If the government and technocrats turn out to be right and all this was needed then people will be more likely to ‘understand’. But if it turns out that the whole thing is an unnecessary panic driven mess and we realize that we should have seen it all along then maybe we’ll still ‘understand’.

  5. Meadowlark

    Didn’t LeBron James say he wouldn’t play if there were no fans in the seats? Did he rescind that comment? Lose your starting three front court players and go 29-37? There are few teams that could stay that afloat with those injuries. Let’s see .. Lakers with no McGee, James, Davis … 29-37 .. hmmm … probably not.

    • x%sure

      He rescinded it, then said he would prefer fans present. But anyone would say that.

      I think James like Lilliard got caught talking big. But I expect them to show, even if a bit grumpy about it.

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