Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard tells Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com that he and longtime teammate CJ McCollum had talked for years about the possibility that they may eventually end up playing on different teams. However, that didn’t necessarily cushion the blow when Lillard learned that McCollum was being traded to New Orleans.
“As a friend and a teammate, I love CJ, that’s like a real friend of mine, not just my teammate,” Lillard said. “… It is what it is, we both knew that this point would be coming. But that don’t make it no easier to deal with. I think that’s where I am now. Me and him literally talked about it happening, the possibility of it and it was likely and stuff like that, and I still woke up this morning like, sad. It’s actually done. When I’m seeing ‘CJ to the Pelicans’ and stuff like that, it’s like damn, ain’t no coming back from this, this is it. It ain’t gonna be no every day, pull up to the house, dinner on the road, all that stuff. It’s done, he’s on a new team.
“As much as I understood it and he understood it and we kind of have always communicated in a transparent way, it don’t make it any easier to deal with or to look at. Like man, is it really over? Is the run really over? And that’s where we are.”
While McCollum’s time as a Trail Blazer has come to an end, the team reportedly has no plans to move Lillard and hopes to reshape the roster around him. For his part, Portland’s star point guard sounds like he’s on board with that plan.
“For me, my heart is Portland Trail Blazer,” Lillard said, per Holdahl. “I want to win it. I know that I have a plan that’s going to put me on my best level when I come back to play. And I want our team to fit that.
“I’m a huge fan of Chauncey Billups. I love Chauncey, we’ve got a great relationship and I think he’ll continue to grow into the head coach that he wants to be. And I’m a Joe Cronin fan. In his position I think it takes being bold and doing bold things, doing what you see fit and standing on it. He’s told me that our plan is to build a winning team, not to rebuild. Because we had a prior relationship to him becoming GM, I trust his word.”
Here’s more on the Blazers:
- Echoing Adrian Wojnarowski’s reporting, Chris Mannix of SI.com says the Trail Blazers may shift from selling to buying before Thursday’s deadline, using their newly-acquired assets to add pieces that could help them win as soon as next season. Mannix, like other reporters, has heard that Pistons forward Jerami Grant is a possible trade target for Portland.
- The Trail Blazers will receive the Pelicans‘ first-round pick in 2022 if it lands between No. 5 and No. 14. However, if it ends up in the top four or outside of the lottery, New Orleans will instead owe Portland the Bucks’ 2025 first-round pick (top-four protected), tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com.
- Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at the Blazers’ decision to finally move McCollum, suggesting that the move represented the team finally coming to grips with an uncomfortable truth.