Lillard Talks Rookies, Free Agency, Urgency And What He Loves About Portland

by Casey Holdahl
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Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard took questions from the media after Portland's 85-68 victory versus the Atlanta Hawks at the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League. Lillard discussed his thoughts on rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr, free agency, wanting the team to "take steps in the right direction" and whether or not the reports that he's unhappy in Portland are true.

On rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr...

Damian Lillard: "I think both Gary and Anfernee, they both impressive, the shotmaking. I think Anfernee being younger and smaller, you expected it to be harder for him physically. I think it shows how talented he is. Gary, he’s already there physically, he know how to get to spots, he making shots. I think it’s a matter of them just learning, getting their time in, being around older players and people who they going to actually be actually playing against. But I like what I see in both of them."

On the ever-improving Western Conference...

Damian Lillard: "It’s the Western Conference. I think it’s always going to be tough and now you’ve got LeBron coming over here, you’ve got Denver getting a little bit better, Utah getting a little bit better and it’s just going to get tougher and tougher. It is what it’s always been but just a little tougher."

"Obviously I loved Ed (Davis), one of my best friends in the league, favorite teammates I’ve played with. We love him, that’s a loss for our team. Bazz (Shabazz Napier) played big minutes for us, Pat (Connaughton) played big minutes for us, so we lose three rotation players that gave us a lot, that contributed to our season last year. But I guess now we look forward to who can come in and replace those minutes and give us that type of quality. But as far as where we fit in there… I’m gonna get us in there. That’s how it’s gonna go."

On Portland's 2018 free agency...

Damian Lillard: "It’s tough. Obviously it’s not like we’re a destination. I think once people come to Portland — a lot of my teammates come and go — they come to Portland and realize it’s a much better city than they thought it would be from the outside because they play there, they see it’s raining all the time when they come and go and they don’t see the summers, they don’t see the good days. So it’s tough to attract players to want to come there, so I think it was a good start in the draft, I guess, with Anfernee and Gary. They both showing signs right now. As far as free agency, it’s just tough to get players. That, and us not having a lot of money to give. It was just tough."

On whether or not he's happy playing in Portland...

Damian Lillard: "I’m straight up. I’m straight up with Coach, I’m straight up with Neil, I’m straight up with y’all. I’m not unhappy. I love where I live, I love the organization, I love our coaching staff, I love who I am. Like I said last year, it’s the urgency of wanting to make those steps in the right direction so we can compete. You’ve got people out here going all out to try and make it happen and I just want us to do the same thing. I feel like we’re trying to do that."