Lillard: Billups key in renewed commitment to Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard acknowledged this week that he considered the possibility of leaving Portland this offseason after a disappointing playoff loss to Denver in the spring, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. However, after deciding not to ask for a trade, Lillard remains committed to the franchise and has no intention of wavering even if the team gets off to a slow start this season.

“Everybody is saying what they think I’m thinking, and what they think I’m going to do, but like, I’m not leaving Portland, you know?” Lillard said.

As Quick details, a series of conversations over the summer with new head coach Chauncey Billups helped renew Lillard’s enthusiasm for remaining with the Blazers. Besides discussing basketball strategies and philosophies, the two men also talked about “family, life after basketball, and the qualities found in a winner,” according to Quick.

“I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”

When Billups was hired by the team in June, he was aware Lillard was frustrated by how the 2020-21 season was played out and was weighing whether he wanted to remain in Portland for the long term. However, the first-time head coach didn’t feel pressure to push the six-time All-Star to stay with the team.

“I’ve never told Dame, or asked him, to stay. Nothing. I’ve never done that,” Billups said. “I felt like the biggest thing I wanted to do was share the things that were important to me. This is what I am. This is what I’m about. Then, it’s on him to decide: Is it worth it? Or should I punt?

“… It was all organic,” he added. “It wasn’t me putting pressure, not me asking this or that. It was a lot about family, about life, and about life after hoop was done. It was more than basketball. We have a great connection, and those healthy conversations are the type that allow one to make a conscious decision.”

Lillard has three more guaranteed years left on his contract with the Blazers, plus a player option for 2024-25, so it’s possible he’ll have a change of heart at some point before that deal expires. However, it sounds like the teams hoping he’ll ask for a trade shouldn’t count on that happening anytime soon. Lillard has bought into Billups’ vision for the franchise and is comfortable sticking with Portland for the foreseeable future.

“He has been where I want to go,” Lillard said, referring to the championship Billups won as a player with the Pistons. “That’s where I landed at. It’s something new; we are going in a new direction. Let’s see if he has a remedy to this. Let’s see. I won’t be able to see that if I come half-hearted.”

This article first appeared on Hoops Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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