Damian Lillard’s Instagram post quoting Nipsey Hussle has led to hours of speculation regarding his future with the Portland Trail Blazers.
On the evening SpotsCenter, Stephen A. Smith had said he spoke to Lillard an hour ago and received clarification regarding his social post.
“He’s devastated,” said Smith. “Just absolutely positively devastated. He wasn’t casting any aspersions or pointing any fingers at anybody with his Instagram post. He was just saying, ‘yo man, this is real to me. I live this. It hurts like hell to be going home in the first-round. I don’t give a damn what I did or what we supposedly did. We are home in the first-round.’ That is not something he anticipated coming into these playoffs.”
After Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets, Lillard pointed out how Denver was shorthanded without two of their starters in Jamal Murray and Will Barton.
"I mean, we didn't win a championship, so obviously where we are now isn't good enough," Lillard said. "I don't know what a shakeup looks like or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as is, it wasn't good enough. We came up short against a team without their starting point guard (Jamal Murray) and shooting guard (Will Barton).”
Lillard’s frustration was palpable in his post-game comments, and it’s understandable. He’s advanced out of the first-round once in the last five seasons and has entrusted the organization to build a contender around him.
The deepest the Blazers have been with Lillard was to the 2019 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Portland played them tough and held a good lead in most games, but their offense and defense was always overmatched by the championship-laden Warriors
Lillard is one of the best players in the game and a future Hall of Famer, but shortcomings in the playoffs are what frustrates him the most.
“All he wanted to do was make sure that everyone understood he wasn’t casting any aspersions against anyone specifically, as it pertains to his teammates, no one in the organization or anyone like that,” said Smith on Lillard’s Instagram post. “He’s just reflecting on the fact he’s getting a bit older and his hard work he’s put in all these years he’s come up short. He’s hurt in ways we can’t imagine. He’s devastated over the fact they have not won and they’re home in the first-round right now. He’s just trying to cope with it and he didn’t want to say anything else for a little while at the very least, because that’s how devastated he is at this particular moment in time.”
Lillard’s performance against the Nuggets was his best playoff outing. Averaging 34.3 points, 10.2 assists, and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 46.3% from the floor, 44.9% from the three-point line, and 94% from the free-throw line.
He was unstoppable.
His heroics included him scoring 55 points and recording 10 assists and 12 three-pointers in a Game 5 loss to the Nuggets. His frustration is understandable.
The Blazers weren’t able to beat a compromised team and now the team has to look themselves in the mirror and figure out what went wrong, as Lillard is.