The Portland Trail Blazers have not had a happy week. General manager Neil Olshey was fired. Head coach Chauncey Billups ripped the starters in a post-game press conference. CJ McCollum spoke publicly about his frustrations this season and was then ruled out indefinitely with a collapsed lung. Oh, and the Damian Lillard rumor mill keeps on spinning.
This time, it wasn’t a possible trade request that started up the cycle again. Rather, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Lillard would like a two-year, $107 million contract extension this offseason that he would need the team’s next general manager to sign off on. According to Wojnarowski, most of the executives who would appear to be candidates for the job would rather trade Lillard than sign him to such a deal. After further reporting suggested he wanted the Blazers to trade for disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, Lillard, apparently frustrated with the reporting process surrounding him since this season, again reiterated his commitment to Portland Wednesday.
“I’m not asking for a trade,” Lillard told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t know how many times I have to say it. It’s gotten to a point in this era that people can write stories and say things and ‘I heard this and I heard that’ and because of who they are, people take as, like, this is credible, this is probably true. Me, on the other hand, I don’t feel like I have to defend myself against that and come out and challenge everything that people say until I’m asked about it because I know the truth, you know what I mean?
I sit in the office with Chauncey every day, and we’re trying to find solutions, and dealing with these people every day when I walk in this practice facility trying to find solutions. Why would I be a part of trying to find solutions if I’m planning on an exit, you know what I’m saying? That’s not what’s going on.
But people want that so bad. It’s a good story and it’s a good thing to talk about that and they know people are going to entertain it so they continue with it, but my intentions are to be in Portland and figure it out. That’s as far I know all of our intentions, and I also know that people are going to continue to have these same conversations because it’s fun to talk about, but that shit is not accurate.”
Lillard is currently out with an abdominal injury, but the Blazers have struggled with or without him this season. At 11-14 they currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference. With McCollum facing a lengthy absence it’s going to be difficult just to stay in the top 10.
The entire organization is in a state of flux at the moment. Management is still in the early stages of seeking out a new top basketball executive, and it isn’t clear if owner Jody Allen plans to keep the team or sell it after inheriting the Blazers from her brother, former owner Paul Allen. None of these factors is making it any easier for Lillard and Billups to find solutions to these issues, but regardless of the problems facing the team right now, the All-NBA guard is still holding firm and insisting that he does not want to be dealt.