Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard 'not 100% comfortable' returning but ready to risk it

Portland Trail Blazers

The NBA season's scheduled to resume July 31 in Orlando, FL but it's not that simple.

Many NBA players, such as Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, have spoken out, saying they're not comfortable returning to the court; whether it is because of the coronavirus pandemic or thinking they should be using their time to fight systematic racism with the Black Lives Matter movement rather than being isolated in a bubble playing basketball. 

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony, other players are disappointed about not having a vote in NBA’s return

"As far as actually playing ... I'm still up in the air a little bit because we don't have all the details," said Anthony. "We don't know a lot of information, so until we have that, it's kind of hard to just commit to it 100 percent."

What does Damian Lillard think? 

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]

The face of the Trail Blazers franchise was asked how he felt about resuming the NBA season during an interview along with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on ESPN's Sportscenter Monday evening.

I don't feel 100%, but it's a risk that I'm willing to take. This is what we do. This is our job. This is how we take care of our families. It's also my way of providing for communities. - Damian Lillard 

 

Lillard was one of the NBA superstars, along with LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook, last month to get on the same page about resuming the season that's been indefinitely suspended since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the players discussed the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, but all parties were in agreement that as long the league took the proper safety steps necessary to restart the season, and gave them the green light, they would all take the court.

But, the pandemic isn't the only reason some players are hesitant to resume the season. Players such as Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard have said that they think resuming the season would be a distraction away from the Black Lives Matter movement raging across the United States. 

“I don't support going into Orlando," said Irving per Shams Charania of The Athletic. "I'm not with the systematic racism and the bulls***. Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”

Last week, Irving helped organize a league-wide call that had more than 80 players, including Portland's CJ McCollum and Zach Collins, to talk about resuming the season and whether it's worth it to play this summer.

McCollum said that if the players don't play, they better be prepared for a drop in financial compensation. Meanwhile, Anthony stressed the players need to be unified in whatever decision they come to.  

But what does Lillard think?

During the interview on Sportscenter, he was also asked about the nationwide protests, one of which he attended in Portland, the fight against systematic racial injustice and resuming the NBA season.

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard attends Black Lives Matter protest in Portland

"As far as the racial injustice, I think that's where a lot of the struggle is for a lot of athletes," Lillard said. "I think our league is made up of so many African American players. And a lot of our hearts are with our people; our minds are with our people. And we feel like we should be a part of that fight. And that's where the struggle is; I think that's where you're hearing a lot of guys kinda coming out, saying maybe we should be focused on that instead of worrying about going back in and jumping into the season."

 

But Lillard also sees the benefits of returning to the court which is why he's willing to take the risk of going to Orlando. 

"I can only speak for myself -- but I think it goes for other guys as well -- we are the financial support for our families and for a lot of our community. We bring a lot of that financial responsibility to support black businesses in black communities. So it makes a lot of sense for us [to return], from that standpoint."

However, Lillard easily sees both sides of the issue. 

"But I think a lot of guys in the league have a point," he added. "I think Kyrie and Dwight have a point. So I understand it all."

Despite Lillard's desire to get back on the floor, he's unsure what it'll feel like for the players to play games during the current political movement. 

"It's something that none of us have experienced in our lifetime," Lillard said. "I mean, the world literally shut down -- I don't know if that's ever happened or when was the last time it did, if it has happened. But I think it'll be difficult, to say the least, because a lot of our hearts are with our people.

"So that's hard to go out there and be your best self, or the best version of yourself as an athlete, when something isn't sitting right with you personally. That's something that's not just going to go away. So we're not sure how it's gonna go. But we're gonna see when we get there."

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