As the NBA season is coming to a close, we are left with some questions. What will happen to the Golden State Warriors? Will LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard ever play together again? And what about those new super teams in the East?
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Since his club left the playoffs early last year, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has been a part of the NBA rumor mill. Despite Dame being the greatest player in the series, the Blazers fell in six games against a depleted Denver Nuggets squad. Lillard has consistently denied reports that he wants to leave Portland, but the whispers persist. Shaquille O’Neal, a former NBA champion, has now chimed in on the matter, advising Lillard that he has to push his way out of Portland. “I’m not a big fan of men teaming up,” O’Neal added, “but it’s the way things are these days.”
The sixth-overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft aspires to follow in the footsteps of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and other superstars who have spent their whole careers with one team. Bryant and Duncan, on the other hand, have won championships with their respective teams; Lillard has yet to even reach the finals. Even if Dame won’t listen, O’Neal may have a point.
Despite Shaquille O’Neal’s counsel, Damian Lillard has so far declined to seek a trade out of Portland.
During the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers responds to the official during the second quarter of a game against the Denver Nuggets. | Getty Images/Steph Chambers
According to ESPN, Lillard’s fury spilled out after the Blazers’ Game 6 defeat to Denver, and he questioned his future with the team for the first time:
“I mean, we didn’t win a title, so where we are today is clearly inadequate. I’m not sure what a shakeup looks like or what adjustments would or might be done, but it wasn’t good enough as it was. We were defeated by a squad that was without its starting point guard and shooting guard (Will Barton and Jamal Murray). … Obviously, we aren’t talented enough to win a championship if we can’t even get out of a first-round series with two of their top three or four players missing.”
Damian Lillard on Portland’s first-round playoff elimination in 2021
In the series versus the Nuggets, Lillard averaged 34.3 points and 10.2 assists. On 13 tries per game, he hit 45 percent of his three-point shots.
In game five, Notre Dame had 55 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 12 three-pointers, but it wasn’t enough.
Lillard doesn’t have enough assistance, according to O’Neal, and the Blazers’ star should go if he wants to win a championship.
O’Neal understands how to get out of one circumstance and win a championship in another. The Big Aristotle departed the Orlando Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he and Kobe Bryant won three championships in a row. Despite the fact that it was more of a dynamic pair than a superteam, O’Neal departed the team that selected him for better pastures elsewhere.
Shaq advised Lillard on the Rich Eisen Show that the only way for him to win a championship is to leave Portland and follow the route paved by previous superstars over the last decade:
“He’s a man with an old school mindset who’s playing in a new school. “I’m not teaming up with you, I’m going to defeat you,” the old-school man might remark. But these new school men would suggest, “Hey, let’s join up to make it simpler.” So it was the most difficult choice for him to make.
“I know he wants to finish the race in Portland. But he may have to change his mindset… if everyone else is doing it, then he’ll be even farther away from winning a championship… I’m not a big fan of people teaming up, but that’s the way things are these days. If he can join a squad that already has two or three players, why not? That improves his chances of winning a title.”
The Rich Eisen Show has an interview with Shaquille O’Neal on Damian Lillard’s predicament in Portland.
Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, wants Dame in exchange for Ben Simmons, the franchise player of Portland. Lillard, on the other hand, isn’t having it.
Despite Shaq’s counsel, Lillard has reaffirmed his choice to stay in Portland.
On the same day that The Big Diesel gave Lillard his advice, the former Weber State standout expressed his desire to remain with the Trail Blazers in an Instagram post.
“I’m back for more… My city is #RipCity.” Lillard wrote in a straightforward manner.
Since his arrival in the league, Dame has called Portland home. He’s made it plain that he wants things to stay that way.
When it comes to superstars in the NBA, things may change fast, but it seems like Lillard has no desire to play somewhere else, even if an NBA Hall of Famer tells him differently.
Basketball-Reference provided all statistics.
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