Oakland's Damian Lillard sounds off on Warriors' move to Chase Center


Oakland's Damian Lillard sounds off on Warriors' move to Chase Center

SAN FRANCISCO -- Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard told reporters all you need to know about him seven hours before his latest matchup against the Warriors.  

"I'm from Oakland," Lillard said Monday afternoon.

However, everything Lillard knew about his former hometown team no longer exists.

In the last four months, the Warriors moved from Oakland Arena -- minutes from his native Brookfield Village in East Oakland -- across the Bay Bridge, down along the clustered shores of San Francisco's Mission Bay at Chase Center, becoming the latest team to leave Oakland for an expensive alternative. It's a fact Lillard is still reconciling. 

"We're opposites," Lillard admitted. "All I'm gonna know is I'm not down the street from the house no more." 

Lillard's latest stop to the Bay Area comes as the Warriors are in transition, looking much different than the squad that swept his Blazers in the Western Conference Finals five months ago.

Since June, Golden State has lost Kevin Durant to free agency, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to long-term injuries, replacing them with an unproven crop of young players more expected to compete for lottery position than a playoff berth next spring. 

"It's just so unexpected," Lillard said. "You don't expect them to go from such a huge deal and a big super team to one guy leaves to injuries. Unfortunate situations and stuff that you hate to see. I think in that way it's just different to see them not as the Warriors right now."

As the Warriors find themselves in a state of change, so does the Oakland sports landscape. In the last decade, the Raiders, Warriors and even the A's have flirted with the thought of leaving.

While the A's seemingly have committed to Oakland after failed attempts to move to the South Bay, the Raiders will call Las Vegas home by the New Year and the Warriors -- under new ownership -- quickly made plans to move across the water in 2012. 

"There's a sense of pride in Oakland about everything that represents us and it's like the Warriors go over the bridge," Lillard said. "Raiders going to Vegas, it's almost like the money grab, the money moves is pushing the real love and what's really behind this organization to the side, which is understandable and also not understandable because I'm from Oakland." 

For much of their California existence, the Warriors have played the role of lovable losers with a loyal following. Despite making the postseason just once from 1995 until 2007, the Warriors were known to have one of the loudest environments in basketball at Oakland Arena.

Lillard knows East Bay fandom all too well. He was in the building when Warriors guard Baron Davis dunked over Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko in the second round of the 2007 NBA playoffs -- providing a signature moment for the "We Believe" team. 

These days, Lillard -- despite being 600 miles north in Oregon -- is disappointed in the environment of Golden State's new $2 billion digs. 

"Where's the pride?" Lillard rhetorically asked. "The Raiders, they went 12-4 a few years back and been struggling, struggled like ten years before that and it was still -- the Black Hole is still there -- you still see the Nation in support. Why would you leave that behind? 

"It just rubbed me wrong. I've watched games here and the crowd is just not the same. People leaving games early." 

[RELATED: Warriors select Scottie Lewis at No. 10 in NBA mock draft]

Now Lillard will lead is Blazers into a new reality in his first game in San Francisco. The Blazers are overwhelming favorites to beat the defending Western Conference champs.

Win or lose, Lillard's sentiments on the Warriors' new home are unlikely to change by the end of the night. 

"I don't like it," he said. "If that's what y'all want to know. I don't like it."

Monta Ellis reveals 'We Believe' Warriors were doubted by Don Nelson


Monta Ellis reveals 'We Believe' Warriors were doubted by Don Nelson

2007 was an unforgettable season for the Warriors.

Entering the season with minimal expectations, Golden State climbed up the standings late in the year and secured the No. 8 seed, going on to knock off the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in a legendary playoff series.

Monta Ellis, who was one of the catalysts for that “We Believe” squad, says that it wasn’t just those outside the organization who entered the season with doubts.

“The one that people really don’t talk about is,” Ellis told Slam Magazine. “That year, [head coach] Don Nelson even came out in the paper and wrote us off. He said we weren’t going to make the playoffs, and we might as well start getting ready for next year and seeing what we could get in the Draft and whatnot.

“We had a lot of veteran guys on the team, and me being a young guy and hungry, we took that to heart. We all came together as a team then. I think we ended up winning 18 of the last 22 or something like that to end up getting into the playoffs as the 8-seed. With that run that we made, it was crazy.”

Ellis was the young guy on a starting unit with veterans like Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Jason Richardson, and floor general Baron Davis.

But instead of fracturing the team, the players actually bonded over trying to prove their coach wrong.

“We didn’t like that [Don said that],” Ellis said. “So we all came together as a team and we just went out there and played. Off the court, you weren’t going to see one without seeing the other 12 or 13 guys. We go to dinner. 

“Whatever we did, we were always together. It carried over to the basketball court. When we were on the basketball court, no matter if the times got tough or anything, we were always able to stay together. We had heated moments. We had heated situations. But nobody ever got personal with it. Nobody ever took it to heart. Everybody was like, Alright, we’re just trying to get better. We saw that. We saw everybody getting better. We saw the team getting better. So we just stuck with it.”

[RELATED: Five memorable Warriors' playoff moments that stick out]

Although Golden State didn’t return to the postseason until 2013, this group remains one of the most iconic Warriors teams of the 2000s.

As some of the players have said in recent years, this team definitely knew how to have a good time off the court, even with coach Nelson.

NBA rumors: League 'angling' to cancel rest of season amid coronavirus

NBA rumors: League 'angling' to cancel rest of season amid coronavirus

As the sports world remains frozen due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA reportedly isn't optimistic it will be able to restart and finish its season.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst went on "SportsCenter" on Friday and gave an update on the league's current line of thinking and the realistic possibility that basketball won't return until next season.

"It's been a bad week," Windhorst said in regards to the feeling the season might not be salvageable. "I think there was optimism about progress a week ago, and some things that have happened this week have turned it south about what could happen. A big factor was what happened in China, where they halted the return of their league and one of the big reasons was they really believed that if they just tested the players' temperature all the time that it would. The Chinese are finding that asymptomatic carriers are causing maybe a second wave in that country. They have just slammed the breaks on sports.

"The talks between the players union and the league this week -- I've talked to both sides of this issue -- and it is clear the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down. Now, they don't have to do that yet, and the way they are negotiating, they are leaving themselves an option either way. But they are not having talks about how to restart the league, they are having financial talks about what would happen if the season shuts down and I think there's a significant amount of pessimism right now."

The NBA reportedly had been looking at the idea of playing the playoffs in Las Vegas while keeping the players in a bubble without fans, but public health officials have poked holes in that idea.

Windhorst noted the NBA is walking a fine line in finishing this season without impacting the 2020-21 season, and the widespread availability of fast, reliable tests will be needed to finish this season.

"They do have runway here," Windhorst said. "I do think that they could go into August or September to finish this season. But I'm not sure they feel confident about that right now. A big factor is testing. We just don't have the testing. At some point, not only does there have to be a test that is quick and can tell if a player is healthy enough to enter the game, you have to know that you have the tests available so that you aren't taking them away from people who need them."

The NBA suspended its season March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Gobert and teammate Donovan Mitchell both have fully recovered from their bouts with COVID-19.

[RELATED: Kerr reminiscing about Warriors' dynastic run amid stoppage]

Not finishing the NBA season would be a tough pill to swallow for the league, its players and its fans, but as we focus on social distancing and flattening the curve, it might be the only option.

As of April 3, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.