Damian Lillard is adamant he won’t suit up for games if his Portland Trail Blazers aren’t afforded an opportunity to contend for the playoffs, providing the NBA resurrects the 2019/20 season.
The league playing out a handful of fixtures to get teams to reach the 70-game mark and fulfill regional TV deals remains a possibility but Lillard says he won’t take to the court for games unless he can compete for a spot in the playoffs.
“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,” the guard told Yahoo Sports over the phone on Tuesday morning. “I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there.”
The Blazers currently occupy the No.9 spot in the Western Conference with a 29-37 record and are 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth playoff spot. It would be fair to have teams just outside of the first eight fight for the final seed but the NBA might simply decide to have teams play as few games as they possibly can.
Lillard, though, is pretty confident over his team’s prospects of making it into the postseason if they’re given a fair opportunity.
“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” he continued. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
It’s expected that the league restarts the campaign sometime in late July at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The season was suspended on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.