Lillard Addresses Trade Rumors, His Future In Portland After Practice With USA Basketball
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, after a practice with Team USA as they prepare for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, took questions from the media regarding a report that he had asked to be traded. The following is a partial transcript from that media availability, with all of Lillard's answers pertaining to his future in Portland included (the questions have been paraphrased for clarity while the answers are verbatim).
There’s been a lot of reports and rumors that you’ve asked to be traded. But you’ve mentioned many times, including in a previous USAB media session, that if you have something to say, you’ll say it. So how would you respond to those reports that you’ve asked to be traded?
Damian Lillard: I woke up to those reports, a lot of people reaching out to me. It’s not true, I’ll start off the rip and say it’s not true. I said the last time I spoke to you guys that a lot of things are being said and it hasn’t come from me. Number one: it’s not true. And secondly, I’ll also say that I haven’t made any firm decisions on what my future will be. It’s really no need for anybody else to speak for me or report this or report that. If there’s something to be said, as I said the last time, I’ll speak directly with my team and with Neil. That’s that.
Would you say what goes into that decision for you then?
Damian Lillard: A lot of things go into it but I choose not to discuss it openly. The only people that I need to discuss that with at this moment is my team.
How aware are you with the different campaigns by fans from other teams trying to bring you to their city, in particularly the one in Philadelphia?
Damian Lillard: I’m pretty active on social media so I see things, whatever is mentioned with my Twitter handle. But I think that’s pretty normal. Even during the season you saw things like that, maybe it’s a little bit louder now because of so many reports and things like that have come out. But that’s it, I don’t really think a whole lot of it.
You had an interview with Chris Haynes talking about one thing you do every offseason is try to figure out ways to get better, how the team can get better. What are the conversations you’ve had with Chauncey and Neil about how the organization can take a step forward?
Damian Lillard: I think the best way to put it is to just be more urgent, be more urgent about what our next step is and how we move forward. I think we have a lot of pride about we made the playoffs all these years in a row, we’re not a bad team, we’re a winning team. We’re in the playoffs every year, we’ve got a great environment, we embrace the city, we have great fans. It’s a lot of positives but I just think we’ve reached that point where it’s like, okay but it’s not enough. Do we actually want to win it all? Is that what we’re shooting for? And we’ve got to do things to show that, we’ve got to put action behind that desire to win at that level. That’s been my only thing this entire time.
There are reports that you’re meeting with Neil Olshey and Chauncey Billups today. Can you confirm that?
Damian Lillard: Yeah, they are, we’ll talk. But I mean, I’m playing for USA Basketball. Obviously with everything that’s been out there right now, we’ll speak, but they were going to be here regardless. Every time I’ve done USA (basketball) they’ve come out to support. This time, there’s a conversation to be had. I think people are looking at it like this big, crazy meeting or something crazy when there’s a conversation to be had.
You’ve said the reports are false, but if you were to request a trade, have you given any thought on which teams you would request a trade to?
Damian Lillard: If I say that I haven’t made a firm decision, that means I’m not looking in a direction of another team or saying this is what I’m going to do or anything like that. We not at that point.
You mentioned you think the Trail Blazers need to do more. Have you thought about what players you’d like to see the organization pursue?
Damian Lillard: Yeah, for sure. This isn’t unusual, every year that’s how I feel. I think this year it’s just more urgent. That’s the best way I could put it: there’s more urgency behind it. But of course there’s guys I feel like can help, people we should target.
Neil Olshey has said he doesn’t believe the roster was the problem last season and that a new coach and playing better defense can get the team closer to contention. Do you share that view?
Damian Lillard: I think we’ve had so many teams in the league that don’t make dramatic changes to their roster but they change coaches and the team improves, maybe because it needed a fresh voice, somebody new to follow., sometimes he coach is just that great. So I don’ disagree that maybe Chauncey can really change our team and make us a better team, get us going in that direction. But I think if you look at our team as it is going into next season, I don’t see how you can say, ‘Alright, this is a championship team, you just need a new coach’ when we lost in the first round to a team that was hurt. That’s just my thoughts on that.
Since you said you haven’t determined your future, does that mean you’re not fully committed to the upcoming season?
Damian Lillard: Right now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. What I can say is my intention in my heart has always been set on being in a Trail Blazers’ uniform for my entire career. But over time, you want to win it all, you know what I’m saying? I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers’ uniform, but we all have to be making strides toward that.
You’ve been a low-profile guy in the offseason, we don’t hear a lot. But this year there seems to be a lot of drama surrounding you. How comfortable are you with that?
Damian Lillard: I think the drama isn’t coming from me, so I think that’s what makes me most comfortable. I take solace in knowing I’m not shy about saying what I have to say, so when I speak up more at some moments when people are used to be saying less or being quiet, kind of just falling back, something could be made of that. I think that’s more of what it is. I feel perfectly at peace as far as everything that’s going on on the internet or with reports because I know I’m fully in control of myself. I know I’m not stepping out of bounds, I’m not doing anything uncharacteristic as a person. It might be unusual for everybody else but my intentions are always right. I always come correct. I’m still in that same space, I think everybody else is just creating drama more than I’m just creating drama.
To be clear: do you expect to be in a Portland uniform this season?
Damian Lillard: Yeah, I expect it.
You mentioned you communicate with Neil Olshey, but what has been your communication with Jody Allen?
Damian Lillard: I’ve spoken with Neil and I’ve spoken with Jody. The conversations that need to be had are being had. I’m able to be open and honest, like I say I am with you guys. I say what it is and I’ve done the same in my conversations with Jody and Neil.