Lillard Won’t Play in Restarted NBA Season if Blazers don’t have ‘true opportunity’ to reach Playoffs
The NBA is considering a ton of options to resume the season, but Damian Lillard told Yahoo Sports this morning if the NBA simply adds “a few games to finish the regular season” and Portland doesn’t have a shot at the postseason he plans to sit out.
“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that in there,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Will all 30 NBA teams return? Will the league have a play-in tournament like the NHL is proposing to their players? Would the NBA scrap the remaining regular season games and start the postseason? Could they start with seeds No. 1-16 based on record, ignoring conference affiliation?
“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard said. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
Lillard and the Blazers were in good position, with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins expected to return, before the NBA suspended the season when Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Portland is 3.5 games behind Memphis for the No. 8 seed.
“It would suck not to get in the playoffs because our thing was, we had fought ourselves back into position to get a spot,” Lillard told Haynes. “We had our starting center and starting power forward coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason. Now, they’re healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody’s rusty. So now, they won’t be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody’s rusty, we can come in here and beat everybody. I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone. It’s going to be hard to get going with no fans, you’ve been off all this time and some people are just ready for summer like, ‘I haven’t played in a long time and the season is basically over to me. Do I really care like I cared before?’ It’s going to be a lot of those factors going on and that presents a lot of room for a team to [overperform]. Like, really mess around and knock some teams off and then, ‘Oh, they’re in the Western Conference finals.’ It’s room for that with this situation. So the fact that it’s possible and we wouldn’t get an opportunity at that, that’s weak to me. I ain’t getting no younger.”
Lillard also admitted people would probably enjoy a Blazers-Lakers first round matchup.
“I just feel like that would be the matchup people want to see,” Lillard said. “And not to say nobody wants to see Memphis, because they’re in the eighth and they’ve been in the eighth spot for a while. They’ve earned that. You can’t take anything away from Memphis. They play hard, they’re exciting and they’ve got a lot of young talent. The Lakers would have their hands full playing against them. Memphis beat the Lakers this year. Memphis would have nothing to lose. I feel like both series could be a little bit hectic for the Lakers, but I think more so us, because of the experience and where we are in our careers. Not too long ago, we played them in L.A. and obviously I had a great game and we won a close one, and in the playoffs, I’m sure they would come up with some type of game plan to not allow that to happen. But I want to compete. That’s what we want.”
Teams are expecting the NBA to issue guidelines by June 1, according to ESPN.