This offseason, Damian Lillard has been at the center of numerous rumors regarding his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. He’s been dedicated to the franchise through his entire NBA career at this point, but it would not surprise if he eventually wanted to find a place where he can compete more easily for a championship.
During the summer, TrueHoop went so far as to report that Lillard was set to request a trade. It does not sound like that ever happened, and Lillard denied it soon after. He did reveal his thinking, when it comes to the direction of his career:
“Right now I’m not sure what I’m going to do. What I can say is my intentions and my heart has always been set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career,” Lillard said back in July. “But I think over time, you want to win it all. And I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers uniform. But we all have to be making strides toward that.”
The Portland Trail Blazers’ hiring process was particularly tumultuous, given past sexual assault allegations against new head coach Chauncey Billups. Lillard wound up caught in the middle of that ugly situation, which was a major issue during the offseason. The Blazers stuck with Billups through it, and with the season just weeks away, he addressed the Lillard situation.
Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups reveals his message to Damian Lillard.
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) October 7, 2021
“I came here to coach you, but it’s your career, it’s your life and it’s your family,” Billups said of the persistent rumors that Damian Lillard could want out, in an interview with Sirius XM NBA Radio. “I’ve been there before, and I’m not going to be the guy preaching ‘Stay here, go there, do this.’
“I got a job to do, I want to do it with you, obviously. But if at some point you deem ‘Hey, another place is another place for me,’ that’s not going to be an indictment on myself. That’s going to be you making a decision for you and your family.”
Billups can certainly relate as a former star point guard, if not one quite at Lillard’s level as a superstar and face of the league.
In 17 years, Billups played for seven different franchises, including two different stints with the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons. His 2002-2009 run with the Pistons, which included an NBA Championship in 2004, largely defined his career, but wasn’t even as long as Lillard’s tenure in Portland. The Blazers drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2012.
This honest approach may help keep Lillard comfortable, and he obviously enjoys being a Blazer. Ultimately, Chauncey Billups’ ability to build a championship-caliber team and get the Blazers over the hump in the playoffs will likely decide if Dame is a rare one-team player for his career, or if he’ll have to head elsewhere to chase a title, as so many other superstars do as they near the end of their prime.