Damian Lillard refuses to play if Blazers don’t have chance to make playoffs
Damian Lillard is one of the many players who are hoping the 2019-20 regular season can resume, as his Portland Trail Blazers still had a fighting chance to make the playoffs before the season came to a halt on March 11.
However, if the NBA is only aiming to salvage the TV revenue for its teams, Lillard has no interest in coming back to play if the playoffs aren’t a possibility:
“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 [expletive] in there,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports during a Tuesday phone call.
Lillard’s warning comes from a proposal in which the league aimed to meet a 70-game broadcast criteria that would net most teams their due share of TV revenue.
A 70-game season would leave the Blazers with only four games remaining and a very narrow chance to crack the postseason. The Blazers are 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and lost the one game the two teams played this season. The Grizzlies would need to play five games to hit 70.
Lillard vowed to be professional but noted there was no need for him to suit up if the Blazers didn’t stand a chance to play on past the regular season:
“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 [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “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.”
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the league is also considering a World Cup-style first round that would include the 16 teams that are already playoff-bound, plus the next four best records. That would include Portland and would give Lillard and company a puncher’s chance to work their way through the postseason after struggling to get it right in 2019-20.