Report: Lillard, Blazers owner talk future of team
NBA.com Global on Jan 24, 2018 06:52 AM
FILE - PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 8: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers is seen against the Utah Jazz on April 8, 2017 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA.com staff report
Save for his rookie season in 2013-14, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has lifted the team to the postseason in every opportunity since. After last night's 104-101 road loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Blazers are 25-22 and in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference. Portland is also just five games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Northwest Division lead.
However, the Blazers have not won more than three games in a row at any point this season -- and have not lost more than five in a row at any point, either. They are one of the league's better defensive teams (104.2 Defensive Rating, which is 7th in NBA) ... but are middle of the pack on offense (104.5 Offensive Rating) and pace (98.87) and they don't take a lot of three-pointers (26.1 per game, 23rd in NBA). They're 13-14 against the rest of the Western Conference and 3-5 against Northwest foes, all of which adds up to an inconsistent season for Portland.
ESPN.com's Chris Haynes reports that star guard Damian Lillard -- who is in the midst of perhaps another All-Star season (25.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.6 apg) -- met with team owner Paul Allen to discuss the direction of the team. The talk, Haynes reports, took place last Thursday (last Friday, PHL time) before the Blazers' home game against the Indiana Pacers that was the first home game Allen had attended in 2018. Most of the discussion centered on Lillard sharing with Allen his desire to stay with the Blazers and also for the team to put a championship-contending team around him:
Lillard, who turns 28 on July 15, requested the meeting in part to reaffirm his commitment to the only professional franchise he has ever suited up for, but also to gain assurances that the organization was just as devoted to expeditiously crafting a title-contending team, sources said.
According to sources, the meeting was held without knowledge of anyone else in the organization. Allen notified the Trail Blazers' basketball operations and business branch afterward.
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Allen feared Lillard would request a trade, sources said, but a trade request was not made. The two-time All-Star made it clear, though, that he has championship aspirations and wanted to fulfill those lofty goals during the remaining years of his prime window.
This was the first time Lillard and Allen have spoken in such a capacity, however. The meeting, which sources described as a productive, open forum to share opinions and express concerns, could also lead to more sit-downs in the future.
During the gathering, Allen also sought answers.
Allen acknowledged the roster imbalance, but questioned why the team had suffered through an inconsistent first half. Lillard issued a heartfelt vote of confidence for head coach Terry Stotts, sources said.
Lillard and Allen also reportedly discussed potential players to target in trades, Haynes reports. The two also discussed the 2015 trade of guard Will Barton that netted Alonzo Gee and Arron Afflalo -- neither of whom are still with the Blazers. Lillard, along with All-Star starters LeBron James, James Harden and Stephen Curry, is one of four players averaging more than 25 points, four rebounds and six assists this season.