The NBA is trying to get its players back on the court as soon as possible. While that’s a large enough task, there’s also the issue of fairness. Portland Trail Blazers All-Star PG Damian Lillard is looking for his team to get a legit chance at making the NBA Playoffs once the NBA returns to play. If the Blazers aren’t given a shot? Dame is prepared not to play in game, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris B. Haynes. Here’s the quote from Dame:
“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 Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.
It was just reported Monday that if the NBA returns, they could consider a 16-team playoff format, seeded similar to a region in the NCAA Tournament. This is just the one option if the regular season doesn’t return, but we’ve also seen the League wanting to play out some regular season games to give teams a chance at the postseason.
The East is basically decided. The West had four teams competing against the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the conference. So the Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs would all get the short end of the straw if we go right into the playoffs.
It’s not hard to get Dame’s frustration with the NBA. The Blazers came out of nowhere to make it to the Western Conference Finals last season before being swept by the Golden State Warriors. Lillard clearly believes his team is capable — and they are — of making a deep playoff run again. Only playing out the regular season to 70 games or so gives Portland a shot, but not its best shot.
The Blazers are currently in the No. 9 spot in the West at 29-37, which was only 3.5 games behind the Grizz for the 8-seed. Jusuf Nurkic was working his way back from injury and now with the long layover, Zach Collins should also be ready to return. With a healthy front court, Dame believed the Blazers were ready to compete in the postseason.
“It would suck not to get in the playoffs because our thing was, we had fought ourselves back into position to get a spot,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “We had our starting center and starting power forward coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason. Now, they’re healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody’s rusty. So now, they won’t be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody’s rusty, [expletive], we can come in here and beat everybody. I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone.”