Amid the cries for Damian Lillard to bring his talents to a bigger market – like the Knicks, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has suggested – the Trail Blazers superstar is further cementing his roots in Portland.
Fighting back against the narrative that he’d shine even brighter on a bigger stage, Lillard took the time ahead of his sixth All-Star game on Sunday to double down on sticking with the Trail Blazers.
“I think, for every person that says you know I want to see him on the big stage, and I want to see him go to a bigger market and all these things, of course those things have pros, but nobody ever wants to think about the cons,” Lillard told reporters.
“If you take that step and it’s not what it seems to be, and it doesn’t work out, or an injury happens, and you haven’t established as much of a rapport with that team, and they chose one guy over the next guy and now you’re traded to a third team, things can fall apart. That may never happen, but it’s just a lot of things you can’t control. You got to consider both sides.
“But for me, it would have to come down to my team saying look, we’re going in a different direction, and we don’t want to hold you hostage, basically, and what route do you want to go.”
The 30-year-old point guard is in his ninth season in Portland after signing a five-year, $140 million extension in 2015 and then a four-year, $196 million super max extension in 2019. He has consistently voiced his desire to stay with the Trail Blazers, either through his words or signing contract extensions.
That hasn’t stopped voices like Smith from advocating for Lillard’s switch to a bigger city.
“Portland, I’m sorry, I apologize, but I wish [Lillard] was in another market,” Smith said last week. “It’s not about you. You’re a great fan base. … It’s about us. It’s about basketball fans outside of Portland, Oregon. We’re being robbed of seeing Damian Lillard’s brilliance every single night.
“Dame needs to be in a big market … like my Knicks?”
Lillard, who is averaging 29.8 points and eight assists per game for the fifth-place Trail Blazers, is instead focused on bringing a title to the smaller city he calls home.
“I think anytime in your life when you become so invested in something, whether that’s a person or a company or anything, you care a lot because of the time that you put into it, and how much it’s been on your heart and on your mind and part of your stress and all these things,” Lillard said.
“For me, it just means a lot to be considered amongst the best players to play in this organization, because there’s been so many great players here, and to win a championship because we’ve only won one and it’s been so long, that would just be the best ending for me.
“Just to be able to bring that back to this city because of how much I know it means to them, and how passionate they are about basketball and our team. If we can just get it done and bring that feeling back from ’77 one time during my career, that would be everything to me.”