The NBA is set to restart the suspended 2019-2020 season in just a few weeks.
Teams are prepping to head to the "NBA Bubble" in Orlando, Florida, but there have already been setbacks.
Multiple teams have reported positive COVID-19 tests, with some players testing positive and opting out of a return to Orlando.
On Tuesday, the Pelicans became the latest team to report cases.
David Griffin says Pelicans as an organization have had 3 players with positive COVID tests but won’t comment on who that is.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) June 30, 2020
Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard knows there are risks involved, but are they worth it?
"I don't think I'm ever gonna be 100% comfortable, because I understand there's no way that this can be kept 100% safe," Lillard told Shams Charania of The Athletic. "That means there's risk involved that involves my health, so, obviously, that's what makes me uncomfortable about it. Like I've said before, it's a risk that I'm willing to take."
Blazers star @Dame_Lillard sits down on @Stadium: Risks/rewards of NBA restart, life inside the Orlando campus, and a July birthday challenge ("I’m not trying to go there and waste a month and a half and go home. I’m going to stay and extend my stay"). pic.twitter.com/aFHxM3gR9T— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 30, 2020
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]
Lillard is willing to take the risk for one simple reason: A chance at an NBA Championship.
My motivation is to get in the playoffs. For one, we want to play for a chance at a championship. I think everybody's coming back with some rust on 'em. Some teams gonna have guys that choose not to play. Some guys gonna be disinterested, wanting to go about their summer. Some guys gonna be out of shape...It's gonna be a lot of factors that give a lot of teams a chance to actually come in here and win it. I think that's part of my motivation, is knowing there is a legit chance... We got our starting power forward and center back. We're a healthier team. That's motivation. - Damian Lillard on the NBA Restart
NBA titles are hard to come by. Just 11 different teams have won the championship since 1990, with multiple teams repeating or three-peating.
Lillard led the Blazers to the brink of the NBA Finals with an appearance in the Western Conference Finals last season, and even that was rare. It was the first time since the year 2000 that that Blazers had made it that deep into the playoffs.
But now, more than ever, the Blazers have a chance. Every team is on a level playing field, having all been stuck in self-isolation due to the pandemic.
As with any playoff run, it's about getting hot at the right time. Given the circumstances in 2020, it's anyone's guess as to which team will be the hot one down in Florida.
Lillard is hoping it's the Blazers.
"I'm not trying to go there and waste a month and a half and just go back home," said Lillard. "I could have been at home this whole time. If I go there, I'm going to stay. I'm going to try and extend my stay there. That's also motivation."