Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard says he only wanted a fair shot into making the playoffs and that's why he threatened to skip the season restart in Orlando if his team wasn't given a fair chance. In late-May, before the NBA plan for the bubble was official, Lillard made it clear without his team having a fair chance for the postseason.
Now four games into the NBA season restart, the Trail Blazers have won three games and lost one, while the Memphis Grizzlies have lost each of their four games played so far. The eighth-seeded Grizzlies now have a 32-37 record, while the ninth-seeded Trail Blazers have a 32-38 record.
On Thursday, the Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 125-115 afters Lillard scored 45 points and dished out 12 assists. "Y'all know that I'm always optimistic and always see the best in situations like this, and it's why I said what I said a few months ago when I said, 'If we don't have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don't want to play,'" Lillard said.
"Because I knew if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot, it would look something like it looks right now. In this situation, we're just getting an opportunity and taking advantage of it."
Lillard says taking a team for granted is always a dangerous thing in the NBA
The Nuggets entered the match weakened by the absence of several of their players -- including a few starters -- but Lillard insists they never took the Nuggets for granted.
"We knew that they had a lot of their main guys out, but in the NBA, over my career I've learned those are the most dangerous nights," Lillard said. "You come out there thinking it's going to be an easy game and that's why you respect your opponent.
"We did what we needed to do," he said. "Some people might say, 'Ah, they didn't play anybody,' but for us we're not going to apologize for a win. We're here just to get it done." The Trail Blazers, who made the Western Conference Finals last year, had been plagued by injuries throughout the season but now they are healthy.
"I don't view us as a team that went to the Western Conference finals, because you are who you've shown to be during the season," Lillard said. "We've been unhealthy, that's true, but we still have a lot of good players and we haven't played to the level that we need to. But I think now, we're starting to trend in the direction to the kind of basketball team that we want to be."