Damian Lillard: I won’t play if Trail Blazers have no shot at playoffs
Most players on lottery-bound teams reportedly prefer to be finished rather than return as the NBA attempts to finish its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Someone finally put his name behind that sentiment.
Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
In ninth place, Portland is 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies. The Trail Blazers might still have a chance to reach the playoffs. It depends on the NBA’s format for resumption.
Lillard is a tremendous leader. If he doesn’t play, that would cast such a negative feeling onto his Portland teammates – and beyond. Lillard’s voice could affect how the entire league handles its return.
With a super-max extension already signed, Lillard has the luxury of being able to afford risking his paycheck by not playing. Not everyone can do that. There are major complications in determining how much money, if any, non-returning players should earn.
This also gets into an issue even in normal times: There are too many games late in the season involving at least one team incentivized to lose. The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs every season after Lillard’s rookie year. He has never had to worry about this since becoming a star. But players and teams annually grapple with games that, at best, don’t really matter. It creates a horrible product.
The concern is just magnified now because of the heightened risk of playing.
The NBA should listen to Lillard’s apprehension, realize he’s not alone and take it seriously. Then, whenever normal play resumes, the league should also realize this type of situation comes up – admittedly, with lower stakes – every year.