Damian Lillard Refuses to Play if Blazers Unable to Reach the Postseason
Everyone wants to play, but the situation must be right.
For Damian Lillard, things are as black and white as they come. If the NBA resumes the 2019-20 season, he will play only on the condition that the Portland Trailblazers have an opportunity to reach the playoffs. If the Blazers will act as nothing more than a tune-up for playoff teams, Lillard has no interest in stepping onto the court.
“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there,” Lillard said on Tuesday morning.
At the time of the hiatus, the Blazers held a 29-37 mark and sat 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.
“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
If the opportunity to qualify for the playoffs is presented to the Blazers, Lillard is optimistic about his team’s chances.
“It would suck not to get in the playoffs because our thing was, we had fought ourselves back into position to get a spot,” Lillard explained. “We had our starting center and starting power forward coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason. Now, they’re healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody’s rusty. So now, they won’t be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody’s rusty, [expletive], we can come in here and beat everybody. I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone. It’s going to be hard to get going with no fans, you’ve been off all this time and some people are just ready for summer like, ‘[Expletive] it, I haven’t played in a long time and the season is basically over to me. Do I really care like I cared before?’ It’s going to be a lot of those factors going on and that presents a lot of room for a team to sneak some [expletive]. Like, really mess around and knock some teams off and then, ‘Oh, they’re in the Western Conference finals.’ It’s room for that with this situation. So the fact that it’s possible and we wouldn’t get an opportunity at that, that’s weak to me. I ain’t getting no younger.”
The NBA board of governors is set to hold a conference call on Friday after which we all should know more information about the league’s plan for the remainder of the season.