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Damian Lillard is the face of the Portland Trailblazers. He’s missed a total of 25 games in his eight years with Portland and played in five All-Star games. He’s not one to sit games with “load management”, or any other excuse.
Yet, his recent comments regarding the potential abbreviated NBA season have pushed media outlets to vilify and crucify him. What Lillard said needs to be understood.
“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.” – Chris Haynes (Yahoo Sports).
The Blazers currently sit three and a half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the West. If the condensed season resumed with seven games (as proposed), Portland’s chances of making the postseason are slim. With potentially only seven games, is it worth risking possible career-altering injuries?
Let’s review the Blazers’ injury history from this season: Jusuf Nurkic had yet to return from his compound fracture, Zach Collins is still sidelined with a shoulder injury and Rodney Hood’s season was shut down due to an Achilles tear. With all of those injuries, Lillard has taken on the majority of the workload for Portland, appearing in all 58 games this year.
I ask again, with potentially only seven games, is it worth the injury risk?
Lillard is not wrong. For the Blazers, it’s in their best interest to ensure his health going forward. He’s the heart and soul of the team and the biggest reason for their success. His availability is what will keep Portland competitive for years to come. To make it clear, he’s now synonymous with the Blazer brand.
For Lillard, he’s taking a stand for himself but also other all-star talents on non-playoff teams. Trae Young, Devin Booker and Luka Doncic are all in similar situations. These players know what’s best for their bodies, their long-term careers and their image.
In such uncertain times, these players are acting in their own best interests. Which is exactly what they should be doing. Ensuring their safety and their future paychecks is exactly what ex-athletes and the media have been preaching for years. I ask you: what exactly makes Lillard’s stance so different?