Perhaps for the first time in his career, following another early exit from the NBA Playoffs, it needs to actually be Dame Time. Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers otherworldly point guard, has been the consummate professional. It would take an entirely separate article to list all he’s done for the city of Portland and his hometown of Oakland. He even won the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award this season too, so…yeah.
Damian Lillard Needs to Be More Selfish After Early Exit from NBA Playoffs
There isn’t anything else he could do to be a better face of the franchise or role model.
Now that all of the pleasantries are out of the way, he needs to be more selfish and either demand better help or a ticket out of town.
Lillard has always said the right things in the public eye; never fully condemning coaches or teammates despite the numerous times they’ve let him down. We may have gotten a bit closer to him speaking out against his current situation after being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the fifth time in eight years.
He also posted this quote from the late Nipsey Hussle on Instagram.
Damian Lillard’s IG post pic.twitter.com/qtm9cpku1l
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) June 4, 2021
The fact is this team has a ceiling even when they are at full strength. It’s time to go in a different direction. You’re going to hear all about potential destinations, Boston and Los Angeles among them.
Can They Keep Him and Actually Get Better?
One idea could be pairing Lillard with his friend, and fellow super-team naysayer, Bradley Beal. He too is suffering in an organization that is toiling away in anonymity. Washington made the playoffs this season but was unceremoniously dispatched by the 76ers, who were without Joel Embiid for most of Game 4 and all of the decisive Game 5.
Beal finished second in the NBA in scoring behind Stephen Curry and is/was eighth in the postseason. He (like CJ McCollum) is a scorer before anything else. But in addition to just being better at it, he has a more diverse scoring profile than what McCollum does.
This is obviously suggesting McCollum has to go to bring Beal West.
This is where it gets complicated, though. The Blazers don’t appear to have the requisite firepower to make it happen outside of McCollum. They don’t own their first-round pick this season and, one would assume, any future picks would be well outside of the lottery with a Lillard-Beal tandem.
Could Lillard make his way to Washington?
They do hold their own first-round pick and could include one or both of their last two first-rounders, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, in any potential deal. Would that be enough to sway the Blazers?
Probably not barring a demand from Lillard himself and even then, once it’s made known he’s available, the teams chomping at the bit to get him will surely drive the price right out of the Wizards price range. It would take some sort of “do-right-by” agreement between the Blazers and Lillard which just doesn’t make much sense organizationally.
A Blazers-Wizards pact is certainly within the realm of possibility though that roster wouldn’t be viewed as a threat to the Bucks or Nets as currently constructed.
Indeed Boston is among the top expected bidders. But the Knicks have reportedly already started calling and don’t discount the Philadelphia 76ers should Embiid’s absence lead to Ben Simmons not being able to carry them through the next round.
Something Needs to Change for Lillard after Losing Early in Playoffs
Head coach Terry Stotts is a likely head to roll but the roster needs to be re-worked as well.
And, at this point, Lillard has proved all that he can on an individual level. It’s time for greater team successes. He can see what the Portland front office can do but after eight years, a change of scenery for him could be in order, wherever that may be.
He wouldn’t be the first superstar to leave the team that drafted him because they squandered years of his career. And he certainly won’t be the last. It needs to finally be Dame Time for real for Lillard. He needs to be more “selfish” to get what he deserves: a shot at a championship. He won’t get that in Portland the way things are.