Recently, reports have surfaced that Portland Trailblazers superstar, Damian Lillard, will request a trade upon returning home from the Olympics in Tokyo. While he told reporters that this is not true, stranger things have happened. Often times star players deny rumors of being disgruntled in their current situation only to confirm the reports months later.
Damian Lillard Should Stay in Portland
Damian Lillard has been the face of the organization ever since his rookie year. That stellar campaign in 2013 led him to the Rookie of The Year Award. Since then, he’s become a perennial All-Star. He’s also made several All-NBA teams and is now competing for a gold medal with Team USA. Fans in Portland will be heartbroken if he does leave the team. Lillard’s exit from Oregon would also be bad for the NBA as a whole. Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons why Lillard’s departure from the Portland Trailblazers is not the best move for his career.
10. Portland has a great fan base
Ever since the team won the 1977 NBA title under the leadership of Hall of Fame Center Bill Walton and legendary coach, Jack Ramsay, the Portland Trailblazers have enjoyed some of the most consistent fan support of any franchise in the league. Fortunately for Blazers fans, 1977 was not the last highly successful version of the team. Any basketball fan from the late ’80s and early ’90s will remember the fast-breaking combination of Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler, and Jerome Kersey. That team also featured a strong supporting cast of Buck Williams, Kevin Duckworth, and Cliff Livingston. They made the NBA Finals twice but lost to the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls.
During Lillard’s tenure, the Blazers have had raucous sellout crowds and the city has always rallied behind the team. His two infamous series-clinching buzzer-beaters both came on Portland’s home court. Vivid scenes of fans storming the court while dejected opponents walked off in defeat will forever be etched in the minds of basketball enthusiasts. If Lillard chooses to go elsewhere, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll enjoy a better home crowd than the one he plays in front of right now.
9. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side
The old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side” is a tongue-in-cheek warning. It is aimed at those who are constantly in search of change. Human beings have a tendency to romanticize the circumstances of others. This results in not fully appreciating the value of what they have. This principle can be seen not only in sports, but in the world of business and entertainment as well. If Sheek Louch had known how hard it is to be a solo artist, he may have just been satisfied with being a member of The LOX.
If Lillard is considering a move to leave the Blazers, it is undoubtedly in search of greener pastures. However, he may want to take a second look at his current situation before making that decision. Right now he is a perennial All-Star on a team that consistently makes the playoffs. If he goes elsewhere with the thought that things will be better, there are a myriad of unforeseen circumstances that could alter those plans.
8. The Blazers have experienced success in the past
The closest Damian Lillard has come to missing the playoffs was the 2020 season when his team was forced to participate in the first play-in tournament the league has held. Circumstances surrounding that event were unique as the NBA was dealing with the first pandemic in its storied history. The bubble provided Portland the chance to qualify for the tournament, and Lillard responded with incredible performances to force his team into the playoffs.
However, the team has done more than simply qualify for the playoffs on a consistent basis. His team has advanced past the first round of the playoffs three times and even made it as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2019. Lillard is not wasting his prime years on a team that other franchises are anxious to face in the playoffs. The Blazers are considered a dangerous matchup. They are capable of beating any team on a given night and potentially winning any playoff series they are in. It’s true he hasn’t been to the NBA Finals or won a title. However, that is not the only measure of success.
7. Ring chasing doesn’t always result in a championship
If Lillard leaves the Portland Trailblazers to pursue an NBA championship elsewhere, there’s no guarantee he’ll get what he’s in search of. In 1996, Charles Barkley left the Phoenix Suns to join forces with Hakeem Olajuwon and Drexler of the Houston Rockets. The team made the 1997 Western Conference Finals before being eliminated by the Utah Jazz in six games. They would never come that close to the NBA Finals again.
More recently, James Harden’s maneuver out of Houston did not result in an NBA championship with the Brooklyn Nets. While some may argue that injuries to both him and Kyrie Irving are largely responsible for that, the fact is there are always variables that can alter the outcome of any experiment. Chasing a ring may sound like a good idea in theory. In reality, it could be an exercise in futility.
6. Sharing the ball will take some getting used to
Lillard has become known for having a 3-point range near the half-court line. At any point in the game, he can launch a shot from a few feet behind the arc. Whether or not it goes in, his coach will not show displeasure and his teammates will not protest. If he goes to a team that already has another superstar, this may not be the case.
When more than one offensively gifted player is on a roster, there is always a conversation about shot selection. Even in LeBron James‘ first season with the Miami Heat, the topic of who would take shots in crunch time became heated. CJ McCollum is certainly a talented player, but he is not considered a superstar. Lillard is clearly the franchise player. He has the free reign to take any shot he chooses. If he’s on another roster where this is up for debate, those shots from half-court early in the shot clock may not be viewed so fondly.
5. Chance to become a hero in Portland
The level of expectation for a team to compete for a championship has, in large part, to do with the team’s history in their city. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are both good examples. They each have fan bases that expect to win a world title every single season. That is not the case in Portland. While some may see this as a bad thing, it could potentially work out in Lillard’s favor.
If he is able to win a single championship as a Blazer, he will be a city-wide hero and be revered for the rest of his life. Joe Namath is more celebrated than Eli Manning even though Manning has two Super Bowl victories to Namath’s one. This is due in large part to the fact that the New York Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl since Namath retired. Meanwhile, the New York Giants had two Super Bowl victories before Manning ever arrived and the franchise had already established a winning culture. If Lillard is interested in becoming a legend, the easiest path lies in Portland.
4. Damian Lillard has become a part of the Portland community
Lillard is not only a great basketball player, he’s also very active in the city in which he resides. He established a program in Portland known as “RESPECT.” The aim of the organization is to go into schools and promote anti-bullying initiatives. The motto is “show up, work hard, be kind.” This is a great effort. It’s just one of the many reasons fans in Portland want Lillard to stay.
3. Small market superstars still enjoy the perks
Many are suggesting that Lillard wants to play in a bigger market, not just for a better team. While fifteen years ago a bigger market may have offered more opportunities, that is not necessarily the case today. Lillard can be seen on national television ads for major corporations such as Adidas, State Farm, and Hulu. He is also a member of Team USA with a chance to win a gold medal this summer at the Olympics in Tokyo. It’s hard to imagine that his individual accolades or endorsement opportunities would increase if he were to leave Portland.
2. Teams are often closer to a title than they realize
Sometimes a team is closer to competing for an NBA championship than their fanbase is aware of. In 2014, the Golden State Warriors lost a seven-game series to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. While the team featured a great backcourt duo by the name of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they did not appear to be contenders for a championship heading into the next season. However, the pieces finally came together the next season. The team rode the momentum of a great regular season into a postseason run that culminated in an NBA championship.
The same can be said of the 2004 Detroit Pistons who were able to win the title after acquiring Rasheed Wallace at the trade deadline. The point is, Portland may not be as far away from an NBA title as some may assume. With good health and one or two key acquisitions, they may find themselves in the NBA Finals sooner than they can imagine.
1. Damian Lillard controls the balance of power in the NBA
While Lillard may not be concerned with the watchability of the NBA, many fans are. At sports bars across America, the complaint is that certain teams are overloaded with talent. Other teams are rendered incapable of serious competition. Lillard could join a team that already boasts a couple of All-Stars. However, that will be seen as yet another example of a team stacking the deck. This assessment may or may not be fair but it doesn’t alter the perception. Fans enjoy parity; it makes the product more entertaining and adds suspense to the playoffs.
Whether or not Damian Lillard remains a member of the Portland Trailblazers remains to be seen. One thing’s for certain: if he leaves Oregon it will change the entire landscape of the NBA. There was a time when star player movement was a rarity that caught everyone off guard. In the current era, it has become the norm; that doesn’t mean it’s always best for everyone involved.
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