Damian Lillard has been adamant that the Portland Trail Blazers' trip to Orlando, Florida will be longer than playing two weeks of seeding games.
"Let’s not waste our f****** time out here," Lillard told his teammates ahead of the restart.
The Trail Blazers have gotten off a 1-1 start in Orlando and have looked like a completely different team thanks to the return of starters Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic.
However, the Blazers haven't been at full strength because former-starting small forward Trevor Ariza decided to opt-out of the restart to instead commit to a one-month visitation window with his young son.
But, that's not where that story ended.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, multiple members of the Blazers "tried to persuade Trevor Ariza to reconsider joining them in the bubble" a few weeks ago.
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Ariza's visitation period had been changed with a conclusion date of early August, so he could have played for Portland during much of the restart.
Haynes reports that "the possibility was explored" but he was told that Portland would have had to apply for a hardship waiver or a late-arrival form for Ariza to enter the bubble. Plus, the league likely would have denied that request even if it was made due to Ariza deciding to opt-out and his name being absent from the restart roster.
Trail Blazers players were reportedly "upset with the outcome."
With Ariza's absence, the Blazers slid Carmelo Anthony down to the three, who has performed well, and had Gary Trent Jr. and Mario Henzonja come off the bench. Ariza would have been a great help against a team with elite wings like Boston, who Portland fell to on Sunday and the Los Angeles Clippers who Portland plays on Saturday. Plus, he would be the primary defender on LeBron James if Portland does make the postseason and plays the Lakers in the first round.
Portland would sign G-League MVP runner-up Jaylen Adams, who averaged 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game during the 2019-20 season, as a replacement player instead.
Now, responding to the team's first loss in the restart, the Blazers are still focused on making the postseason to make a deep playoff run.
“I packed for the entire three months,” Lillard told Haynes. "We came here thinking 6-2, or 7-1 and that would get us in there. That’s where our heads are at and we can still do that.”
Currently, the Blazers are tied with San Antonio for the ninth seed in terms of games back to Memphis but have the tiebreaker due to winning and losing one more game than the Spurs before the season got suspended.
“We’re just focusing on ourselves,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “I think if we handle our business, it will work out. We can’t be looking at what they’re doing and all that. We gotta worry about ourselves. We knew that it was a chance that we would lose a game. We lost one, but we can’t dwell on it. We got to go to the next one and try to put a string of wins together.”
The Blazers will play the Houston Rockets Tuesday night on NBC Sports Northwest at 6:00 p.m. PT.