Lillard Makes His Case For Restarting The 2019-20 Season
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is as willing to speak his mind as any athlete in sport. While many athletes and celebrities of his caliber are reluctant to weigh in on issues (and considering the way those comments are often purposefully misconstrued, it's not difficult to understand why) Lillard freely gives his opinion, regardless of how it might play. So with the NBA nearing a decision on how to restart the 2019-20 season, Lillard made his thoughts on some of the reported proposals public record.
Dame got the ball rolling this week by talking to Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes about his thoughts on a potential restart. While Lillard says he's excited to play again, he's not interested in returning to the court if there's nothing tangible to play for...
There are a number of options the league is considering. Will all teams participate? Will there be a postseason play-in tournament? Does the league go right into the playoffs with the current postseason qualifiers? Does it attempt a Nos. 1-16 playoff format and seed by record, regardless of conference?
"If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games," Lillard told Yahoo Sports. "If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect."
Obviously Lillard is doing some politicking here, but what's he's describing isn't all that different from how most players of his caliber deal with the end of a season if they are no longer in the playoff race (for example, LeBron James sat out the last month of the 2018-19 season once the Lakers were effectively eliminated from qualifying for the postseason). And considering it's been well over two months since the 2019-20 NBA season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's not at all difficult to understand where he -- and likely a lot of other players in a similar position -- is coming from.
On Wednesday, Lillard joined "Jalen and Jacoby" on ESPN to expand on his comments and also discuss in more detail what he thinks would be the most fair and interesting way to get the season/postseason going...
"I feel like a play-in tournament would be perfect, just because we actually were in striking distance and also had enough games to get in the playoffs, said Lillard. "But to this point, if they did decide that we're just gonna go straight to the playoffs, obviously, we would all be disappointed. But to this point, we haven't performed to be in that Top 8, so if that's the case, fine. But if we gonna just come back to play games, that would be harder on everybody else."
Lillard also discusses the heavily-regulated workouts at the practice facility, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, his willingness to live in quarantine if/when the league restarts, who he would pick for MVP this season and whether the 2020 NBA Championship (assuming there is one) would come with an asterisk.