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#pounditThursday, February 2, 2023

Damian Lillard

Report: Damian Lillard to have ‘major input’ on new Blazers coach

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers will be searching for a new head coach, and they’ll be consulting their star player as part of the process.

The Blazers parted ways with coach Terry Stotts on Friday after nine seasons. Notably, Stotts is the only head coach Damian Lillard has ever played for, meaning this will be a significant change for the star guard.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Lillard will have “major input” on who replaces Stotts.

Lillard is 30 years old and won’t want to waste his prime. He’ll want a coach that can turn the Blazers into winners quickly. What sort of traits he would want is unclear, but two reported targets include longtime NBA guard Chauncey Billups and ex-Suns and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who has overseen dominant seasons from Steve Nash and James Harden, among others.

There has been chatter that Portland executives had not been happy with the team defense played under Stotts. That may be a point of emphasis as part of the search, whether by Lillard or someone else.

Kevin Durant, Steph Curry show Damian Lillard ultimate respect

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers may have lost Game 5 of their first-round playoff series to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, but Damian Lillard won over the hearts of fans and his fellow players.

Lillard had a record-setting performance, scoring an absurd 55 points on 12 three-pointers. His 55 points were a Portland playoff record, and the 12 threes were a postseason record. He scored 12 straight points in overtime to send the game to double OT.

Lillard was so unreal that fellow superstars were in awe.

Here is what Kevin Durant had to say:

Steph Curry was equally impressed.

There was this too from Magic Johnson:

There was no other way to react. Lillard was on fire in the game.

Unfortunately for him, his Blazers were unable to pull out the win, losing 147-140 in double overtime. Lillard continues to win the respect of people across the league and thrill fans with his explosive performances.

Damian Lillard recruiting Draymond Green to Blazers?

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard may be after one of his longtime Western Conference rivals on the recruiting trail.

Green’s Golden State Warriors were eliminated on Friday with a loss in the play-in tournament to the Memphis Grizzlies. After the game, the Portland Trail Blazers star Lillard retweeted a post that read, “Keep tripping on Draymond, he’ll be in a Blazers jersey on y’all a–.”

The retweet is still clearly visible on Lillard’s Twitter page.

The former Defensive Player of the Year Green cannot become a free agent until 2023, so the Blazers would have to trade for him if they want Green any time in the near future.

As for Lillard, the retweet seems pretty on-brand. Earlier this year, we already heard reports that he was pushing for Portland to acquire Green.

Damian Lillard not taking Nuggets lightly despite their injuries

Damian Lillard

The Denver Nuggets will be far from full strength entering their first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers. But Damian Lillard certainly does not think that will make them an easy out.

Speaking with Sam Amick of The Athletic this week, the Blazers star made clear that he is not taking Denver lightly in spite of their injuries.

“I mean, they’re not at full strength but a wounded animal is the most dangerous animal,” said Lillard. “I’m not going into here even thinking about who’s not on the floor, because the MVP of the league is on the floor. They’ve got a lot of talent.”

The Nuggets are without star guard Jamal Murray, who suffered a torn left ACL last month. Will Barton and PJ Dozier, two important parts of Denver’s rotation on the wing, will also likely miss the start of the series with injury.

Portland, meanwhile, is mostly at full health heading into the playoffs. But Denver’s talent, including MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic, and their slight history with the Blazers means that they will probably make for a handful for Portland in this first-round series.

Damian Lillard upset Blazers are only NBA team without fans

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost their last six home games, and Damian Lillard seems to be getting fed up with playing in an empty arena.

The Blazers are the only team in the NBA that have not hosted any fans this season. They were planning to allow a limited capacity crowd, but Oregon Governor Kate Brown nixed that idea after several counties in the state saw an increase in COVID-19 cases. Lillard took to Twitter on Tuesday to express frustration over that.

“So we gone be the only damn team in the whole league with no fans,” the star point guard wrote.

You can understand why Lillard is getting impatient. The Blazers are fighting for a postseason spot, and they could certainly use a boost from some fans at the Moda Center. They are currently the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, which means they could have to host a play-in game with a playoff spot on the line.

The Blazers are facing some serious organizational uncertainty with the playoffs looming. Major changes could be coming if they don’t make a deep playoff run, and fans are anxious to help them do just that.

Report: Knicks eyeing possible Damian Lillard trade

Damian Lillard

The ascendant New York Knicks may be plotting their next power move.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reported this week that the Knicks are eyeing the status of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and plan to pounce if the six-time All-Star becomes available for trade.

Lillard is a rare of symbol of loyalty in today’s NBA. But a recent piece by Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, with whom Lillard is reportedly close, fueled speculation that Lillard may be losing patience with the passive approach of the Blazers organization. The article also suggested that Portland coach Terry Stotts may be in danger of losing his job.

Berman notes that the Knicks have an abundance of first-round picks and young prospects to offer for trade as well as a league-high $60 million in cap space to soak up a big contract with. Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant, a fellow Oakland, Calif. native, also shares a close bond with Lillard.

The Knicks have been one of the best stories in the league this year, coming out of left field to occupy the No. 4 spot in the East at 35-28. That has them quickly becoming a much more palatable destination for superstars. But point guard is still probably the Knicks’ weakest position. Lillard would obviously be a dream fit for them.

Damian Lillard takes blame for Blazers’ struggles

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost five straight games and 10 of their last 13. The struggles have jeopardized their playoff spot, dropping them to seventh in the West. In light of it all, Damian Lillard is pointing the finger squarely at himself.

Lillard said he had to be better after Sunday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, blaming himself for not playing well enough to help the team avoid the losing run.

Lillard was held to 23 points on 8-of-27 shooting on Sunday. His scoring output has fallen off in the last month, and he hasn’t had a 30-point game since Apr. 2. Part of that might be down to a lingering hamstring issue, which recently held him out of action for three games.

The Blazers are getting healthy, with Jusuf Nurkic and C.J. McCollum both returning to action in recent weeks. It doesn’t seem to have helped the team’s play, though. No wonder their coach might be on the hot seat.

Damian Lillard urges Blazers to retire LaMarcus Aldridge’s number

Damian Lillard

No current Portland Trail Blazers player has more pull than Damian Lillard, and he’s already using it on behalf of former teammate LaMarcus Aldridge.

Lillard appeared on ESPN’s “Jalen and Jacoby” on Thursday shortly after Aldridge announced his sudden retirement from the NBA. The veteran guard immediately began lobbying the Blazers to retire Aldridge’s No. 12, adding that it would be “the proper respect.”

“It’s time, man. It’s time for the Blazers to retire No. 12,” Lillard said. “You know, he had an amazing career in a Trail Blazers uniform. … There’s no denying the kind of career he had in Portland and what he meant to this city, so, I think that’s the proper respect to retire his jersey because of who he was and what he did for this organization.”

Aldridge departed Portland in 2015 to sign with the San Antonio Spurs, but he never lost his affection for the Blazers. Aldridge is all over the franchise’s all-time leaderboards, ranking fifth in games played, first in total rebounds, fourth in blocks, and third in both points and field goals. Each team has its own standards for retiring numbers, but Aldridge certainly has a case.

Damian Lillard has funny reaction to Kyrie Irving teasing his celebration

Kyrie Irving Damian Lillard celebration

Kyrie Irving came close to stealing Damian Lillard’s swag on Monday, and now Lillard is having a little bit of fun with it.

The Brooklyn Nets star Irving exploded for 40 points in a win over the New York Knicks. After hitting a clutch shot in the fourth quarter, Irving teased Lillard’s famous “Dame Time” celebration before ultimately stopping short.

The Portland Trail Blazers star Lillard had a great reaction to the moment. Lillard tweeted that he was getting Dragonfly Jones vibes from Irving, referencing the old Martin Lawrence character.

Despite being rival point guards, Irving and Lillard do seem fairly close. The former apparently recognizes the sanctity of “Dame Time” as well.

Damian Lillard upset Timberwolves passed over David Vanterpool as coach

Damian Lillard

The Minnesota Timberwolves made a big head coaching move on Sunday night, and Damian Lillard is disappointed with it.

The Timberwolves announced the firing of Ryan Saunders amid a 7-24 campaign, which is the worst record in the league. But then reports said they planned to hire Raptors assistant Chris Finch in his place.

The move is odd, as most of the time when a coach is fired, they are replaced by an interim coach already on the staff. In this case, Minnesota talked with someone outside the organization, who will be taking over midseason. It’s a highly unusual situation.

Lillard was upset that David Vanterpool wasn’t hired instead, considering he’s an assistant already on the staff.

Vanterpool, 47, was an assistant with Lillard’s Blazers from 2012-2017, which explains why Dame is stumping for him.

Vanterpool has been an assistant with Minnesota since 2019. He has interviewed for a few head coaching jobs but has not received one.