Damian Lillard admitted it was hard for him seeing CJ McCollum getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. At the trade deadline, the Trail Blazers sent McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell to the Pelicans and received in return Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a protected 2022 first round pick and two future second round picks.
Lillard and McCollum had been Portland's backcourt duo since 2013. Lillard says he keeps everything "authentic" as his bond with McCollum was extremely strong. "It’s tough because I form real friendships with the people that I play with.
I don’t do nothing that I don’t feel like is authentic to me, with me. All of these guys are my friends, especially CJ. I’ve been playing with CJ for nine years and we spent a lot of time around each other, with each other—you know, in the summer, on vacation, dinner, whatever; we train together, we’ve done everything together.
Sat next to each other our whole career on every flight. You know, that’s the toughest one for me to deal with. But I think at this point, the biggest positive from all of it is the amount of flexibility we’ve given ourselves to make real improvements to our team.
And that on top of some of the really good talent that we were able to hold onto and added. We’ve added some good players and still have flexibility to go out and make our team better than it’s been in a while. I think that’s the biggest positive, but that’s still to be determined, whether we can go execute that," Lillard told Complex Sports.
Lillard on Gatorade’s "Fuel Tomorrow” initiative
"The first thing I think of is a facility. It costs to find somewhere to train at. You need someone to train you. You have to be able to get to a place to train.
You have to have people invested in you, you know what I mean? I think that’s what this campaign is. It’s an investment into so many kids that need it. But specifically to me, some of the barriers, playing on an AAU team.
Getting on a team. The money it costs to get a plane ticket. To get your team shoes. To get your team to the point where they can get into a tournament where there’s going to be college coaches instead of a bunch of local tournaments.
There’s a lot of things that get in the way. Maybe your parents have to work and there is no local facility or the facility doesn’t have certain equipment to train or you don’t have anywhere to go shoot or play basketball or play football.
There’s a lot of things that get in the way. And like I said, I know that from firsthand experience," Lillard explained.