Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard is “proud” to be known for contributing to a team


Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard is "proud" to be known for contributing to a team

LAS VEGAS — Damian Lillard has made it clear over the years that he wants to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers his entire career and will live with it if the organization fails to win a title during his playing career.

Lillard, who announced his two-year extension with the Blazers at a news conference on Saturday, was asked how he doubled his desire to remain in Portland through thick and thin.

“I’ve always said if I do something that goes against me and say I end up winning, I know myself better than any of you guys know me,” Lillard said. “So I’d be happy with that because I don’t think anyone would be unhappy being a champion, but it wouldn’t be as fulfilling for me as I would like this moment to be.

“As long as I have the opportunity, a good opportunity [compete for a title]I’m ready to go out.”

Lillard, 31, said several times on Saturday he had to block out the noise from people saying he had to go elsewhere to win a title. But he made it clear he was confident in continuing to try to get the Blazers back into competition.

“That’s where I’ve always stood, and that’s where I stand,” Lillard said. “It will either finish or it won’t. I don’t want to go out there with this crazy tough fight I’m fighting and it takes us a miracle times 10 to get it done. I just want a chance and if that happens and it doesn’t work out then I can live with that.”

Lillard, who played just 29 games last season while dealing with a core muscle injury, said it was important for him not to just sign another massive overtime that is helping to set a new bar for younger players , but also to be the player who bucked the trend of changing teams at a time when many stars are frequently looking for better situations.

“I’m proud to be that guy,” Lillard said. “Because I don’t think you deserve something like that if you just go out there and score a few points. And something that’s missing from our league is the character and the fight and the passion and the pride, not just the name on the back, but the name on the front and how you influence the people you come in contact with.

“And I think because I’ve embraced that and I haven’t pretended to embrace it, I really am, and I think that just shows the power in that. It shows that there is something to get involved and to put your heart in the right place and your mind in the right place.”

Blazers coach Chauncey Billups reiterated how much Lillard’s dedication meant to the team, calling it “an incredible day for our organization.”

“We’re very, very lucky in our market, in our franchise, to have a guy like Dame,” Billups said. “Superstars in our game today differ from our generation in the way they have taken responsibility for their careers. And what I mean by that is there are a lot of superstars who, if they don’t want to be somewhere, they find a way to get where they want to go. And Dame has made it very clear what his intentions are to be in Portland and play in front of the Portland fans, and I have a lot of respect for him for that, because that’s just the way it is. That does not happen.”

Billups, who won a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and is widely regarded as one of the best clutch players of his time, knows how much Lillard’s commitment means to a Blazers team trying to turn things around after going 27-55 last season Has .

“There are two types of teams in our game today,” said Billups. “A team that has a superstar and teams that are looking for one. We’re lucky to have one, and one who wants to be here. So this is great. Much has changed in this organization, he holds on to all of us , through it all.”

Lillard hopes by staying in Portland he can show a whole new generation of young players that they can still find happiness in a city, even if their team is going through some rough times over the years.

“Hopefully it will have an impact going forward,” Lillard said. “It doesn’t have to be ‘Oh, that’s what the media says’ or ‘Everybody tells me that.’ And you just get tricked into doing what everyone’s trying to get you to do, because nobody’s going to live with those choices like you do. So I’m proud to be the person that pops out, and this organization has shown that guy of trust and belief in me.

“But I am even more proud of what a commitment like this represents from the organization. And I hope that reaches the people behind it.”

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