Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard appears to be tired of addressing the trade speculation that has surrounded him all summer. Last month, Lillard denied a report that he was going to ask for a trade from the Blazers (and he hasn't asked for one), but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning. While speaking with Christopher Kamrani of The Athletic, Lillard made it clear that he knows how he feels about the situation, and that's good enough for him.
"You get to a position where it's like, 'Do I defend myself or do I just say nothing?' For me, when I'm just hearing stuff that's not the facts, I'm going to say I didn't say that," Lillard said of the rumors, via The Athletic. "Some things I've just got to let it be said. I know what the truth is. I know where I stand. It's not my duty to make the public know … it's not my job to make them aware of what that is.
"It definitely has been different. I feel like I've handled it like I've handled everything. I just let it happen. I let people talk and I just stay true to who I am and I stand on that. If I say something, I stand on what I said. It is what it is, at this point."
While Lillard may not be especially interested in explaining himself, the star guard did provide a bit more information while answering questions from fans on Instagram Live on Tuesday night. When asked if he was going to leave Portland, Lillard had a brief response: "I'm not leaving PDX," Lillard said. "Not right now at least."
At this point in time, it seems very likely Lillard will begin the season in Portland, and then he'll go from there. While he hasn't demanded a trade, he has made it very clear that he's unhappy with the Blazers as currently constructed and that he would like to see some major improvements so that they can truly contend in the consistently deep Western Conference.
"I think that's the stage we're at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organization must look in the mirror because we've constantly come up short," Lillard said in an interview with Yahoo's Chris Haynes. "We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we're doing is not working and it's not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on."
Lillard was particularly unhappy with the fact that the Blazers were unable to advance past the short-handed Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs last season.
"Our environment has always been great. We're not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat," Lillard said. "I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, 'Man, this just isn't going to work.' We're not winning the championship, but we've got a successful organization. We're not a franchise that's just out here losing every year and getting divided. We have positive seasons; we just don't end up with a championship."
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Lillard has been extremely loyal to Portland over the course of his career, and he has made it clear that he would like to play his entire career as a Blazer. He also wants to contend for titles though, and at 31 years old he only has so many years left at the peak of his powers. Thus, his urgency is understandable. If the Blazers are unable to build a contender around him, it makes sense that he'd want to try his luck elsewhere.
By making his frustrations known publicly, Lillard put the Blazers on the clock. If they're able to construct a contender around him in the near future, all will be well in Portland. If not, then Lillard's stance regarding a trade request is likely to change. Given the fact that the Blazers have been unable to build a title team around Lillard up until this point, it's fair to be skeptical of their ability to do so moving forward.