Damian Lillard has been involved in a real transfer binge that makes us think that in Portland they plan a deep reconstruction. However, and despite recent events, the point guard all-star He has spoken first-hand with the current general manager, Joe Cronin, and he has given him his word that they will try to build him a capable team to fight for the ring.
With the respective departures of Norman Powell, Robert Covington and lastly CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell, the Oregonians have obtained a salary exception of 21 million dollars that could become 61 million to sign this coming summer.
Lillard, as he has done on previous occasions, has said actively and passively that his heart is in Portland, and that he fully trusts the franchise’s guidelines to return them to the forefront of the league. He wants to be that “one club man”, such as recent examples like Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki.
“For me. My heart is in Portland. And I want to win the championship here. I know we have a plan that will put me at my best when I get back on the track. And I want our team to adapt to that. I’m a huge fan of Chauncey Billups. I love Chauncey. We have a great relationship and I think he will continue to grow into the coach he wants to be. And I’m also a fan of Joe Cronin. In his position I think you have to be bold, do what you think is necessary and stick with it. He has told me that our plan is to build a winning team and not rebuild. Since we had a relationship before he became GM, I fully trust his word,” Lillard said in a recent interview with NBA.com.
McCollum’s trade to the Pelicans has been especially painful for Lillard, with whom he has a great relationship both on and off the track. Although the movement has caught many followers by surprise, the truth is that both had been commenting on this possibility for some time.
“This has been something that CJ and I have talked about for the past few years. As if there was a chance. I would say that in the last three years it is something that we have discussed constantly. He would say to me, ‘You know, I might get out of here.’ And I told him: ‘No, I don’t think so’. But as time went on we both knew it would come to a point where we would no longer share backcourt, whether they pierced him or me. You never really know where teams are going. We players don’t really know,” he explained.
Dame places as a turning point the loss in the 2019 Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors where they were thrashed 4-0. From that moment, the then management proposed changes in the team that have not worked, falling in the first round during the following two years against Lakers (4-1) and Denver (4-2) respectively.
“I knew we had made it to the Conference Finals, and we still fell short. The following year we basically blew up our equipment and that didn’t work either. Then we basically did the same thing and it didn’t work either. And here we are in this year with a difficult start. Obviously right now I’m injured and things are not going well. So those conversations that we had over the years were not a surprise. He knew there was a big chance and so did I,” Lillard acknowledged.
“When I see CJ on the Pelicans I can’t help but hurt. Damn, there’s no turning back from all of this. It’s done. He is in a new team. As much as I understood it and he understood it, we have always communicated in a very transparent way and it doesn’t make it any easier to carry. It’s like… Is it really over? Is our thing over? And that’s where I’m at right now.”
How do they deal with it?
After a professional life in Portland, McCollum heads to the New Orleans of Jazz and the beignets where he will share a dressing room with talents such as Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson or Jonas Valanciunas. A new professional stage for him with the aim of getting a place in the Play-in. However, how does the shooting guard face this radical change after eight and a half years wearing and sharing the same wardrobe?
«He is a professional to the core and a guy who willingly admits everything. He reads a lot and pays a lot of attention (…) he is going to be able to handle anything. That is, with the blows, with anything that happens to him. And he’s going to put up with it. Although I think that no player really wants to be transferred. If I know him like I think I know him, it’s never easy,” he said.
“I really didn’t want any transfer. He didn’t want any change, but he also understands how this business works. We’ve been here a long time and he accepts it. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for him. Something like ‘I’ve been here for almost a decade. It is my home. This has been the franchise I’ve played for my whole life and it’s really over.’ I don’t think it’s there. He understands how this sport works. But still he hasn’t done her any good. It’s hard. As I say it for myself, he has felt the same way, “he concluded.
(Cover photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)