The Trail Blazers signed Damian Lillard to a two-year extension this offseason despite the fact that there were still three years remaining on the point guard’s current deal. Speaking today to reporters, including Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter link), general manager Joe Cronin explained why the team was comfortable moving forward with a new deal for Lillard.
“If Dame only has one or two years left, that turns up the urgency,” Cronin said. “Now we have a little more time to get the perfect mix rather than pushing all the chips in on one big piece. We’re going to figure this out the right way.”
Lillard, meanwhile, was asked if he felt as if Portland has made the roster changes necessary to be a contending team going forward, and offered a positive assessment of the team’s summer, as Highkin relays (via Twitter).
“I believe in Joe, I believe in (head coach) Chauncey (Billups),” Lillard said. “I think what we did with our roster gave us a much better chance than what we’ve had prior to that. The way it looks and feels, we’re much closer.”
Here’s more on the Blazers:
- Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic are virtually locked in as starters for the Blazers, but the small forward spot will likely be up for grabs in training camp and the preseason, Billups acknowledged today. “The way I see it, it’s gonna play out in camp,” Billups said (Twitter link via Highkin). “There’s three guys — Josh Hart, (Nassir Little) and Justise (Winslow). It’s not about the best player, it’s who plays best with that unit.”
- The Blazers have had “brief” conversations with Little’s camp about a potential rookie scale extension, but haven’t gotten deep into the numbers yet, Cronin said today, adding that there’s mutual interest in reaching a long-term agreement (Twitter link via Highkin).
- Gary Payton II, who is recovering from a core muscle surgery, is the only Blazer who isn’t a “full go” for training camp, according to Cronin, who reiterated that the newly-signed guard is expected to be ready for opening night (Twitter link via Highkin).
- Billups is hopeful he can reduce Lillard’s workload during the 2022/23 season, telling reporters today that he’d to keep the point guard between 32 and 34 minutes per game. “He wants to play 42 minutes,” Billups said, per Highkin (Twitter link). “If we have it where we want it, I’m hoping around 34. But we’ll see.”
- After signing a new four-year, $100MM contract this summer, Simons said today that one of his next personal goals is to become an All-Star, according to Highkin (Twitter link).