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Damian Lillard embarking on pivotal season with Trail Blazers

Despite Damian Lillard's prodigious production, the Trail Blazers have yet to embark past the conference finals during his tenure.

Despite a lack of significant moves, Damian Lillard “has faith” the Trail Blazers are improved.

PORTLAND, Ore. — For all the handwringing this summer over Damian Lillard’s happiness in Portland, the Trail Blazers guard is staying put, hopeful the team’s moves will pay off.

The biggest, of course, was parting ways with coach Terry Stotts after nine seasons. Portland hired Chauncey Billups, who has no prior experience as an NBA head coach.

The nucleus of Lillard, guard CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic remains intact, but Portland shored up the roster with the addition of Larry Nance Jr., Cody Zeller and Ben McLemore. Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter have moved on.

While the team didn’t strike any splashy offseason deals, Lillard believes the Blazers are in a better place,

“Obviously at the end of last season, I wanted to see our roster improve, I wanted us to have a better chance to win,” Lillard said. “And we had our conversations throughout the summer about what that looked like and how we could take steps in that direction, and I come into this season with faith that that’s going to happen and that we’re going to do that.”

Portland finished 42-30 last season and earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference. The team won 10 of its final 12 regular-season games but the playoffs ended quickly with the Blazers eliminated by Denver in the opening round.

Lillard is entering his 10th NBA season. The closest he’s come to a title was a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2019.

He ranked third in the NBA with an average of 28.8 points last season, and was in the top 10 with 7.5 assists. But it may be Portland’s last season with their All-Star and Olympian, unless the team gets results.

“I think we all know we’ve got to get over the hump,” Nurkic said.