The Trail Blazers figure to be among the teams looking for some extra help at the trade deadline this season, but Damian Lillard hopes that the club will only make a move if it’s clear upgrade — otherwise, he may not want to risk upsetting Portland’s chemistry, as Jason Quick of The Athletic details.
“When you look around the league, you just see the talent. Teams are stacking up on talent,” Lillard said. “You see a lot of guys teaming up and guys wanting to be on the same team. When you want to compete with that — like on a championship level — you gotta try to fight that with firepower. For us, I think our chemistry, our style of play, and the coaching we have — that’s a big thing for us. So like, we lean on that. We’ve been successful with it. But when you talk about a championship level, it’s tough to compete with those ultra-talented teams — Golden State, Oklahoma City, teams that just have player after player after player.
“If we go away from (team chemistry and continuity), it has to be for certain that we are able to match (the West’s top teams) talent-wise,” Lillard added. “I’m not saying ‘Do it’ if we can get that, I’m just saying if we are ever going to sacrifice (chemistry), it would have to come with us being able to match a team with talent.”
As Quick relays, Lillard repeatedly cautioned that he wasn’t telling team president of basketball operations Neil Olshey what he should or shouldn’t do with the roster at the deadline. “It’s a hard job,” the star point guard said of Olshey’s position. “And that’s why I’m glad it’s not mine.”
Still, Lillard’s stance is an interesting one. Many players around the league would encourage their general managers to make whatever moves they believe will get their respective teams closer to a championship. Lillard, on the other hand, told Quick that he doesn’t want to be so focused on winning a title that he sacrifices teammates to get there.
“At the end of the day, I know in my heart I want to win. I want to win a championship for this city, but I’m not willing to put somebody under the bus to do it,” Lillard said. “That means more to me than saying ‘I won a championship, but now this guy has been traded to a bad situation, and now his team don’t like him as much and he might be out of the league in a year.’ I’m not going to have that. I’m not going to have that on me.”
Here’s more from Blazers players on the team’s trade deadline outlook, via Quick:
- Lillard explained further why he doesn’t want to get too involved in telling Olshey and the front office what they should do at the deadline: “I’ve never been somebody to go out there and be like, ‘We need to do this, or we need to do that,’ because people’s lives are involved, and I don’t deal with that.”
- When discussing the West’s top teams, Lillard also observed that it’s “hard to get that much talent to come to Portland,” acknowledging that the Blazers will be at a disadvantage against bigger-market teams when competing for top free agents.
- Like Lillard, Evan Turner doesn’t envy the position Olshey is in: “It seems like we are up and down of where we want to go. You look at one half of the roster and it looks like a rebuild, and the other half is try-to-win, and see how far we can push it. So whatever (Olshey) does, I’m sure he will do what’s best for the organization. Hopefully, if he does deal, it’s a deal you can’t say no to, as opposed to a flip of a coin whether it’s going to work or not.”
- While the Blazers are very unlikely to move C.J. McCollum, the standout guard acknowledged that he’s become accustomed to seeing his name pop up in trade rumors and speculation: “What’s his name … Bill Simmons has been trying to get me traded for like five years. There’s a proposed trade for me three times a year by him. I admire the fact that he thinks I’m worthy of being traded to … 12 teams.”