Damian Lillard is Where He Wants to Be
With the contract extension behind them, Lillard and the Blazers can focus on the future.
LAS VEGAS—Over the past three seasons, it's been difficult for most people in the NBA sphere to take Damian Lillard at his word that he actually doesn't want to leave Portland. That goes for fans, analysts at major national media outlets, social-media commentators, front-office executives at rival teams, everyone.
Lillard kept talking about his desire to stay with the Trail Blazers because he kept getting asked about it, because in 2022 the ecosystem of the NBA has reached the stage where the default is that every superstar in a small market is eventually going to ask out—and if they don't, the possibility of a future trade demand has to be manufactured to feed the news cycle. A comment Lillard made on Instagram during the 2020 bubble about Paul George "running from the grind" has become a meme at this point.
So when Lillard has said, over and over again since last training camp started, that even though the Blazers aren't currently title contenders, he isn't angling to go somewhere else, the reflexive response has been, "Are you sure?"
Three things stood out to me in Lillard's Saturday afternoon press conference announcing his brand-new two-year, $122 million extension, which is added onto the three years remaining on the last extension he signed in 2019 and keeps him under contract in Portland until 2027 and that general manager Joe Cronin said would make him a "lifetime Trail Blazer."