The Pacific Northwest has had its share of really anxious moments in 2021.
Russell Wilson Blows Off Some Steam
First it was the relationship between the Seattle Seahawks and their All-Pro quarterback Russell Wilson.
Things looked like they were going sour when the Seahawks experienced another playoff exit shy of Super Sunday.
Wilson’s vocal criticism of the offensive mine and team personnel decisions led to unsubstantiated reports that the Super Bowl champion and his wife Ciara wanted a trade out of Seattle.
Cooler heads prevailed and the two sides came to an understanding. With the immediate future secure, there’s more doubt than ever that the perennial All-Pro will finish his career in Seattle.
Lillard Stays In Portland…For Now
The scene then shifted from Emerald City to Portland as doubt lingered concerning the future of superstar point guard Damian Lillard.
Another first-round playoff exit and the firing of head coach Terry Stotts — a guy Lillard respected — and subsequent hiring of former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups was a lot to digest.
Billups has only one-year of NBA coaching experience. He was the lead assistant to Tyronn Lue with the Clippers this past season.
Even if Dame D.O.L.L.A truly doesn’t want to leave. The basketball universe keeps mentioning his name in potential trades.
Save Dame Campaign
It’s as if every hoops fan in the world is trying to will Lillard to a contender.
🗣️ Damian Lillard needs to request a trade, according to Shaquille O'Neal 🔥 https://t.co/ufwTmwpsG3
— Bolavip Basketball (@BolavipBasket) September 9, 2021
All signs pointed to Lillard playing his last season in Portland. Speculation was rampant.
Things took a turn for the better for Trailblazers fans on Wednesday. Portland’s lone franchise star took to social media to announce he’s returning to “Rip City.”
Despite all the trade rumors that surrounded him this offseason, Damian Lillard makes it very clear where his heart is…
And who’s running Dame City, Oregon ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Ep94r4Ttc1
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) September 9, 2021
Those words of assurance put minds at ease all around the Pacific Northwest.
The Weber State legend averaged 28.8 points over 67 games last season, to go along with 7.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds.
Career averages of 24.7 points, 6.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds over nine seasons in Portland make Lillard a Top 10 NBA player.
Don’t forget he is the No.1 rapper in the League as well. He’s comfortably got it sewn.
Directed by @keonimars
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) August 23, 2021
In 2019, Lillard agreed to a four-year super-max contract extension that kicks in this upcoming season.
He is set to be paid $39.3 million by the Blazers this season and $48.8 million in the final year of the deal in 2024-25.
Despite Lillard making it clear he isn’t requesting a trade, there’s still that lingering question about his long-term future with the team.
Here's why the Sixers and Blazers need to work out a Ben Simmons-Damian Lillard trade.https://t.co/YjdS7JfICh
— Sixers Nation (@SixersNationCP) September 3, 2021
King Of Portland
Lillard’s good soldier approach has slowly turned to frustration this offseason. The future Hall of Famer indicated that the proverbial status quo wasn’t working in the Pacific Northwest.
That led to speculation that fellow backcourt star CJ McCollum, might be moved, but that didn’t happen. Portland hasn’t done much of anything to improve the team.
Acquisitions like Ben McClemore, Tony Snell, Larry Nance Jr and Cody Zeller aren’t enough to keep Lillard happy over the long haul.
In the meantime, his personal life is experiencing a metamorphosis of sorts and that growth will keep him mentally locked in.
LILLARD WEDDING 💍
Congrats Kay'La & @Dame_Lillard
Performances by Common, Snoop & Tevin Campbell!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 5, 2021
The Blazers can’t be viewed as anything close to title contenders in the loaded Western Conference.
They are at least a tier behind the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors.
Contrary to popular belief, rosters don’t become championship caliber overnight, small market teams like Portland don’t get much PR and don’t have the loaded squads to seriously challenge the elite teams.
So a superstar like Lillard reaffirming his commitment to the city has got to count for something. Even if he changes his mind sooner than later