A year ago, there were rumors that Damian Lillard was ready to ask the Trail Blazers for a trade, but he has re-established himself as a franchise cornerstone by signing a two-year extension, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. At a press conference Saturday, Lillard said he chose to ignore advice from people who said he had to go to a different team to have a shot at winning an NBA title.
“I’ve always said that if I do something that goes against who I am, and say I do end up winning, I know me better than any of y’all know me,” Lillard said. “So I’d be happy with it, because I don’t think anybody wouldn’t be happy being a champion, but it wouldn’t be as fulfilling to me as I would want that moment to be. As long as I have an opportunity to do it, a good opportunity to [compete for a title], I’m willing to go out however.”
The 31-year-old guard is coming off a difficult season as he was limited to 29 games because of a core muscle injury and Portland sank close to the bottom of the Western Conference. Despite the adversity, Lillard felt it was important to show his loyalty to the Blazers and possibly serve as an example to the rest of the league.
“I feel proud to be that guy,” he said. “Because I don’t think you earn something like this just by going out there and scoring a bunch of points. And something that’s missing in our league is the character and the fight and the passion and pride about not just the name on the back, but the name on the front and how you impact the people that you come in contact with. And I think because of how much I’ve embraced that and I haven’t pretended to embrace it, that’s really who I am, and I think this just shows the power in that. It shows that there’s something there for being committed and having your heart in the right place and having your mind in the right place.”
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Lillard will consider playing in the 2024 Olympics, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. He captured a gold medal with Team USA last year.
- Bruce Brown‘s decision to join the Nuggets in free agency was heavily influenced by former Nets teammate Jeff Green, who touted the advantages of playing alongside Nikola Jokic, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “I literally can’t wait,” Brown said about the chance to team up with Jokic. “He’s one of the guys I hate playing against, me being a defender because you can’t turn your head. You gotta keep your eye on the ball at all times, which is tough. He makes the perfect play every time.”
- Jazz assistant coaches Alex Jensen and Lamar Skeeter are strong candidates to remain with the team on Will Hardy‘s staff, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.