The Blazers are in the midst of a season that, so far, has found success hard to come by. Yet to Portland star guard Damian Lillard, there's no reason to think of toiling anywhere else in the NBA.
Lillard took to The Players' Tribune to pen a piece about how loyalty has been a hallmark of his career and wants to carry that over to his time in Portland. In the piece, titled "Loyalty Over Everything," Lillard explains how he will do everything in his power to remain a Blazers for life.
"I’m saying, you think you know how deep this goes, but you have no idea," Lillard wrote. "When I say that I will never, ever switch up on the city of Portland, I mean what I say. When I say that I will never, ever switch up on this organization, I mean what I say.
"They might switch up on me. That’s business. That’s basketball. But I will never switch up on the city. I don’t want it easy. I’m drawn to the struggle. When I came here, we hadn’t won a playoff series since 2000. You had so many injuries to franchise guys like Brandon Roy and Greg Oden over the years, and it’s so tough to come back from that. Even going way back, you had All-Stars like Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton who didn’t choose to end their careers as a Blazer.
"Well, I’m going to be that. I’m going to carry that. I’m going to bring a ring to this city or go down swinging."
This isn't the first time Lillard has vowed his allegiance to the Blazers, doing so over the summer when he inked his super-max extension with the team that will pay him $196 million over four seasons. The No. 2 scorer in Portland history, Lillard said taking the franchise's scoring crown from Drexler has long been one of his career goals. Lillard is currently 4,545 points shy of Drexler for that mark, but is already the franchise's all-time leader in 3-pointers made and attempted and free throw percentage.
In his Players' Tribune piece, Lillard also references his series-clinching game-winners against the Houston Rockets (in the first round of 2014) and his 37-point 3-pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder (in the first round last year). He says those shots -- dubbed by some as a bad attempt -- were just what he had in mind and all a part of his story.
"That’s what’s so funny to me, when people want to talk to me about the buzzer-beater against OKC, or the one against Houston -- like, 'That’s a bad shot.'
"You think I was improvising? You think I was panicking? You think I didn’t know exactly what I was doing?
"We didn’t grow up playing in a lab, bruh. We didn’t grow up getting boxes of shoes in the mail. We didn’t grow up with a trainer and a video team. That shot is 20 years old. I’ve been making it since 2001 on a milk crate on Beverly Ave."
The Blazers have struggled in 2019-20, though, getting off to a 5-9 start before opting to sign former All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to a deal. After an 0-3 start with Anthony in the lineup, Portland won three straight -- but has since dropped three of its last four games. Anthony's deal was guaranteed for the rest of the season, but Portland is 9-15 to date and in 12th place in the competitive Western Conference.
Injuries have undoubtedly played a role in damaging the Blazers' high hopes this season. Last season's starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, is still recovering from left leg surgery. In addition, starting forward Rodney Hood tore his Achilles last Friday and will miss the rest of the season. Veteran big man Pau Gasol was added in the offseason, but never played a game for them because of a foot injury. In late November, he was waived by Portland and then rejoined it as an assistant coach.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.