Report: Damian Lillard, team owner Paul Allen met to discuss Portland Trail Blazers' direction
From NBA media reports
Save for his rookie season in 2013-14, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has lifted the team to the postseason in every opportunity since. After last night’s 104-101 road loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Blazers are 25-22 and in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference. Portland is also just five games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Northwest Division lead.
However, the Blazers have not won more than three games in a row at any point this season — and have not lost more than five in a row at any point, either. They are one of the league’s better defensive teams (104.2 Defensive Rating, which is 7th in NBA) … but are middle of the pack on offense (104.5 Offensive Rating) and pace (98.87) and they don’t take a lot of 3-pointers (26.1 per game, 23rd in NBA). They’re 13-14 against the rest of the Western Conference and 3-5 against Northwest foes, all of which adds up to an inconsistent season for Portland.
ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes reports that star guard Damian Lillard — who is in the midst of an All-Star season (25.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.6 apg) — met with team owner Paul Allen to discuss the direction of the team. The talk, Haynes reports, took place last Thursday before the Blazers’ home game against the Indiana Pacers that was the first home game Allen had attended in 2018. Most of the discussion centered on Lillard sharing with Allen his desire to stay with the Blazers and also for the team to put a championship-contending team around him:
Lillard, who turns 28 on July 15, requested the meeting in part to reaffirm his commitment to the only professional franchise he has ever suited up for, but also to gain assurances that the organization was just as devoted to expeditiously crafting a title-contending team, sources said.
According to sources, the meeting was held without knowledge of anyone else in the organization. Allen notified the Trail Blazers’ basketball operations and business branch afterward.
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Allen feared Lillard would request a trade, sources said, but a trade request was not made. The two-time All-Star made it clear, though, that he has championship aspirations and wanted to fulfill those lofty goals during the remaining years of his prime window.
This was the first time Lillard and Allen have spoken in such a capacity, however. The meeting, which sources described as a productive, open forum to share opinions and express concerns, could also lead to more sit-downs in the future.
During the gathering, Allen also sought answers.
Allen acknowledged the roster imbalance, but questioned why the team had suffered through an inconsistent first half. Lillard issued a heartfelt vote of confidence for head coach Terry Stotts, sources said.
Lillard and Allen also reportedly discussed potential players to target in trades, Haynes reports. The two also discussed the 2015 trade of guard Will Barton that netted Alonzo Gee and Arron Afflalo — neither of whom are still with the Blazers. Lillard, along with All-Star starters LeBron James, James Harden and Stephen Curry, is one of four players averaging more than 25 points, four rebounds and six assists this season.
In an interview Tuesday with The Oregonian‘s Joe Freeman, Lillard said the meeting with Allen was not given its proper context:
“It’s definitely been blown way out of proportion,” Lillard told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Lillard said he remains committed to the only organization he’s played for and motivated to bring a championship to Portland, two things he shared with Allen during their chat in the Blazers’ locker room.
Lillard refused to share intimate details about their conversation, which he called a “simple meeting.”
“I met with Paul to figure out how we can improve,” Lillard said.
Similarly, as one source close to Lillard noted, Allen regularly meets with players who compete on his other marquee professional sports franchise, the Seattle Seahawks, including quarterback Russell Wilson.
But, sources said, Lillard initiated the talk to make sure the two were on the same page, not to create controversy.
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