Damian Lillard will play this season as a 30-year-old -- seems hard to believe, doesn’t it?
The Trail Blazers opened training camp Monday and Lillard was asked about his conversations with Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations. By now, everyone knows Lillard burns to win -- and win in Portland.
The talk around the league has always been -- “Dame needs help. He needs to go somewhere else to win. Get him another superstar.”
Lillard says, “We all need to get better. I need to get better. We all do.”
Lillard and Olshey have always communicated. Perhaps now, though, those conversations are more important as Lillard heads into his ninth NBA season.
Lillard shed some light Monday on how those conversations have gone lately:
“For me it's just, you know, let's give ourselves a real shot,” Lillard said during a Zoom media conference. “‘You know I want it all.’ And I've been transparent with him about that.
“You know, just the fact that we've done everything. I've been swept a few times, we've been out in the first round, we've been in the second round, we've been to the Western Conference Finals -- you know we've got a lot of experience as an organization since I've been here.
“Highs and lows.
“We created a great culture. You know, I think we've done just about everything except win it all. And I feel like we had, you know, maybe two teams -- one or two teams -- that it was realistic for us to go and do it.’
The first time was early in Lillard’s career.
“You know I feel like the team with LA and Wes and all those guys we had a realistic shot,” he said, “And I feel like, from top to bottom, that my third year, feeling like you know, we can win.
“And then I think the year we went to the Western Conference Finals we legitimately felt like we could win it. “But that's just what I've been communicating to him is, ‘Come on man, let's really make a run for it. Let's go for it.’
“And let's not be that organization that says, ‘Oh, we made the playoffs this many years in a row, we've got a good culture.’
“Let's put ourselves out there to do whatever we can do to give ourselves a real shot, you know, Let's try to bring that glory back to Portland. You know it's been like 50 years. How long has it been since ‘77? It has been a long time and I want to be a part of that.
“You know, I get up every morning and I train my ass off -- take care of my body. I don't live a wild life. You know a lot of the steps that I take in my life were so I could come out here and be at my best and play at the highest level so that I could win a championship for this organization and for the city.
“So I've communicated that to him, you know how much it means and what my desire to do that is and you know I think he's doing his best. I think he's really trying to do that, because it means something for him as well.
“So that's what the conversation has been. It's been transparent, you know, it’s that simple.”
And the quest begins this week for the Trail Blazers.