Damian Lillard is being criticized in the media for the comments he made earlier in the week about not wanting to come back and play ‘meaningless’ games should the Trail Blazers not have a path to the playoffs when NBA play resumes.
But, it seems like they’re missing the point. Allow me to explain.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky called Damian Lillard a ‘spoiled and entitled brat’ for saying he wouldn’t participate.
FS1's Skip Bayless of ‘Undisputed’ had a similar take:
“Damian Lillard suddenly speaks out as if he’s Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant or LeBron James— like he’s a superstar. I keep asking myself, when did Dame D.O.L.L.A. become THAT guy to be able to speak out the way he speaks out? What have you done? Show me the credentials whereby you can say ‘I’m above that. That’s beneath me.’ If Damian Lillard came out and said ‘I don’t want to get sick,’ you got me. But, that’s not what he’s talking about. What he’s talking about is ’It’s beneath me. You can’t make me go there and play basketball for nothing.’ It’s not for nothing. You earn a real sweet check. That’s just wrong. You can’t say that publicly. It’s time to do your part and don’t try to knock down the process and pull everybody back down into your ego-maniacal view of ‘I’m Dame D.O.L.L.A.’”
“If Lillard came out and said ‘I don’t want to expose myself or potentially bringing this to my family,’ that’s a different conversation. But, all he’s saying is ‘I don’t want to play because I don’t have a chance to win a championship.’”
Bayless’ co-host Shannon Sharpe piled on, as well.
“Just because you’re a big player in the league and have a platform, that doesn’t mean you should stand up and voice everything.”
“Some things you just keep to yourself. To say that I’m not going to come out and play in meaningless games. You played 66 meaningful games that you turned into meaningless games by the way your team played. There are no meaningless games. You don’t know how many more of them you’ve got. Treasure every last one of them, Dame.”
What these critics fail to understand is the inferred understanding that players don’t want to expose themselves to the outside world in fear that they’d catch the COVID-19 virus and potentially spread it to their family and close friends. That should be implied, yet these pundits are holding that against Lillard. OF COURSE that’s a concern and should be automatically considered into his thought process.
Sharpe’s intimation that the Blazers turned 66 meaningful games into meaningless ones is flat out misguided. With season-ending injuries to Rodney Hood (Achilles), Zach Collins (Shoulder) and the long recovery process of Nurkic (Ankle), the Trail Blazers were forced to play short-handed and without consistency to their starting lineup.
Sharpe also fails to see the bigger picture when telling Lillard to treasure every last game. What if Lillard played with no shot at making the playoffs and suffered a horrific injury? The team’s franchise player, who is set to make $31.6M next season, would be be sidelined for an extended period of time. Lillard is looking more long-term. If the Blazers were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and this were a normal regular season, chances are people would be just fine with Lillard, who will soon be making supermax money, sitting out a few games that literally mean nothing. It’d likely be questioned if he didn’t sit out.
Next time a person calls Lillard selfish and a spoiled brat they should look in the mirror.
Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.