Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard said Thursday any rumors he is mulling whether to ask for a trade have not come from his mouth publicly, adding Portland GM Neil Olshey knows...
Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard said Thursday any rumors he is mulling whether to ask for a trade have not come from his mouth publicly, adding Portland GM Neil Olshey knows exactly what he is thinking.
However, Lillard, if he were trying to end any speculative talk about his future, was unconvincing because he declined to reveal what he has told Olshey.
Speaking on a Zoom call after the U.S. Olympic practice in Las Vegas, Lillard still seemed bothered by Portland’s first-round ouster, which led to his decision to join his first U.S. Olympic team.
Lillard said a couple of nice things about controversial coaching hire Chauncey Billups, but also fell short of a ringing endorsement regarding the former Pistons champion point guard whose résumé includes a sexual-assault allegation in 1997 settled in a civil trial.
Desperate for a second star and a point guard, the Knicks are monitoring the Lillard situation to see if he becomes available in a trade. Whether Lillard has given Olshey time to upgrade the roster is unclear.
“At this point, there’s a lot of things being said, sometimes words being put in my mouth,’’ Lillard said when asked if he’s mulling his future as a Blazer. “I haven’t said anything. All the people who’ve covered me since I’ve been in the NBA, they know if there’s something to be said or I think something and have something to say, I’m going to say it.
“There’s been a lot of talk. Nobody’s heard me say any of these things. But anything I have to say I’m going to say it directly to Neil. I’m going to address it directly with my team. I don’t really have nothing to say to you guys [in the media] about it. Anything that I need to say or I feel has been said to Neil.’’
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, known as a Lillard confidant, reported earlier this month Lillard could still be “pushed out the door’’ if the Blazers don’t make significant roster improvements.
In a Lillard trade, the Knicks don’t want to have their roster ransacked but likely are willing to give up three of their future first-round picks. RJ Barrett is not considered an untouchable in a deal for a superstar, according to a source.
Lillard got into a Twitter beef with Blazers fans after reports surfaced Billups was in negotiations as coach to replace Terry Stotts despite a prior sexual-assault allegation.
Lillard was originally supported the move, but was defensive on Twitter, saying he was unaware of the 1997 incident.
When asked Thursday whether he endorsed the move, Lillard said it wasn’t his decision and seemed to distance himself from the hire.
“Right away when we let Terry go, I was asked about names that had been floated, I said I like JKidd [Jason Kidd], I like Chauncey,’’ Lillard said. “At that time, I had no idea of any of it. When I did learn of it and the process continued, I never felt it was my duty to say, ‘Do this or don’t do this.’ I do my job and show up as a point guard of the team. In the past I’ve never stepped on anyone’s toes or demanded anything or told anyone what to do.
“It was no different in this situation. I’ve known Chauncey before and never knew of that. Our organization said they did a thorough investigation and went through the process of hiring a coach in a comfortable way. That’s not my decision. Or my job to say this guy is hired or not hired. This is what it is now. Here we are.’’
An NBA source said Billups and Lillard are communicating regularly.
“I had a prior relationship with Chauncey on the friendship level,’’ Lillard said. “Someone who had a lot of success at my level, was a champion, Finals MVP. I’m prepared to go in and do my job every year as I always do. Hopefully we make strides in a positive direction and become a better team with a new coach.’’
Lillard still has a “sour taste’’ in his mouth from a first-round ouster to Denver, which was missing star Jamal Murray and key piece Will Barton. Lillard admitted he chose to compete in the Olympics to get his mind off the first-round exit.
“I expected us to have a great solid run in playoffs and it ended being cut short,’’ Lillard said. “The fact the season wasn’t extended for me — and on top of not being extended, there was a sour taste in my mouth after losing so early against a team that was beat up and injured. I expected to win that series. It gave me that itch to go back in and play and have a chance to win and not have to sit around a full summer thinking about what went wrong.’’
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman