Numerous times in the past Damian Lillard has affirmed he has no intention of wanting to be traded from the Portland Trail Blazers. Dealing with a fresh round of speculation in the wake of a coaching change, Lillard said Thursday he’ll keep his thoughts on the direction of the team between himself and the franchise.
“Anything that I have to say, I’m going to say directly to [Blazers general manager] Neil [Olshey] and I’m going to address it directly with my team,” Lillard said after the third day of Team USA training camp in Las Vegas. “There’s really nothing else I have to say about it.”
Reports emerged last month that the Blazers’ coaching search that led to Chauncey Billups being hired and the failure to build a championship-contending roster could lead to Lillard asking for a trade. Lillard stopped short of denying those reports, only saying he hadn’t made any such feelings public.
“There’s a lot of things being said and sometimes words being put in my mouth and I haven’t said anything,” Lillard said. “If there is something to be said or if I think something or have something to say that I’m going to say it and I’m going to stand on it.”
The Blazers were met with backlash over the hiring of Billups after details of a 1997 rape allegation resurfaced in the week prior to him being named as head coach. Lillard also received criticism on social media because he’d publicly supported the former Finals MVP during the search process.
Lillard said he didn’t know about the allegation when he offered the endorsement of Billups. No criminal charges were brought in the case, but Billups settled a civil lawsuit filed by the woman.
Lillard said Thursday that he supported the hire but added that the process of making and vetting the decision was done by the team.
“I was asked about names that had been floated out there. I said I like [Jason] Kidd, I like Chauncey. At that time, I didn’t have any idea of [the allegation],” Lillard said. “When I did learn of it and the process continued, I never felt like it was my job or my duty to say ‘do this or don’t do this.’ I do my job, I improve my game and I show up as a point guard of the team. In the past I’ve never stepped on anybody’s toes or demanded anything or told anybody what to do and it was no different in this situation. That’s all I can really say.
“Our organization, they said they did a thorough investigation, they went through everything. They went through the process of hiring a coach.”
Lillard said he’s known Billups for years and knew he was long considered a good candidate to become a coach or a general manager.
“I had a prior relationship with Chauncey on a friendship level as somebody that had a lot of success at my position and was a champion,” Lillard said. “With us letting [former Blazers head coach] Terry [Stotts] go after nine years, our organization was set on looking for a leader of men, somebody players would respect.”