Nothing came of those rumors, and he remained on the roster this past season as the team underwent a significant makeover.
Instead of making any sort of official request to leave, Lillard signed a humongous contract extension to remain in the Pacific Northwest.
Damian Lillard has signed a two-year $122 million extension with the Portland Trail Blazers, sources tell ESPN. The extension has a player option for the 2026-27 season.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 8, 2022
There is something to be said about Lillard’s sense of loyalty to the only NBA team he has ever played for, and it is something that should certainly be respected.
However, the Blazers went 27-55 in 2022, and they don’t seem like a likely participant in next year’s playoffs.
By deciding to be loyal to a fault, Lillard may have killed his last opportunity to win an NBA championship.
The Blazers Have Failed To Give Lillard A Shot At Winning It All
Shortly after being taken with the sixth pick in the 2012 draft, Lillard quickly emerged into a bona fide star.
When he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win the first round of the 2014 playoffs versus the Houston Rockets, it looked like Portland had a legitimate franchise player and leader to build around.
Six years ago today, Damian Lillard sent the Rockets packing with this incredible 3-point shot ⌚️ pic.twitter.com/wYKE0kRnrK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 2, 2020
Once fellow backcourt starter CJ McCollum emerged as a star himself a couple of years later, the Blazers seemed to have the beginnings of a contender.
But they never really acquired any other game-changing talent, and thus they have made it past the first round of the postseason only once in Lillard’s tenure with them.
Over the past two years, Portland has seemingly dismantled the crew it has been going to war with the last several years.
McCollum was sent to the New Orleans Pelicans, Gary Trent Jr. was traded to the Trail Blazers for Norman Powell, and Powell was subsequently dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Robert Covington.
Although the Blazers recently traded for standout forward Jerami Grant, they are largely bereft of talent moving forward, and they don’t seem to have any real assets to use on the trade market in order to improve their roster.
It looks all but certain that Lillard will move into his twilight years on a mediocre or average roster that won’t be able to do much more than make the playoffs.
Is He Already Declining?
The six-time All-Star is about to turn 32, and one would think he has plenty left in the tank, especially given his immense abilities on the hardwood.
However, this past season, his production took a nosedive.
After averaging 28.8 points on 45.1 percent overall shooting and 39.1 percent from 3-point range in 2021, Lillard only managed to shoot 40.2 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from downtown this past season.
His season was limited to 29 games due to an abdominal injury that required surgery.
Lillard’s drop in efficiency was unexpected, and it begs the question of whether we will see the Lillard of old at any point moving forward.