The Portland Trail Blazers seem like they’re stuck in the movie Groundhog Day. For the umpteenth year in a row, they’re playing just well enough to secure a postseason berth yet are still far removed from being a legitimate contender.
But when it comes to the big stage, All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is no longer just happy to be there. He has his sights set on much loftier goals. Yet, after an underwhelming trade deadline, his team is once again in no better position to compete for a championship.
That’s a tall order given the Warriors juggernaut, but he’s also watched other teams like the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder retool their rosters in order to at least pose a real challenge to the status quo. Much of this, of course, points to organizational machinations, or in the Blazers’ case, a towering lackthereof, which is a big reason why Lillard decided to meet with enigmatic owner Paul Allen last month.
“It was just me showing urgency, like spark that urgency. Figure out, okay, what do we have to do? We’re a five, six seed. What do we got to do to make the jump? If you don’t have a line of communication with people who can make the changes or the people who can make impactful things happening for the better, then you’re just going out there playing.”
At the time, Lillard went out of his way to clarify that his meeting with Allen had nothing to do with requesting a trade, as he quickly took to social media to reaffirm his commitment to the organization.
It did, however, come on the heels of a report that Allen had formed some sort of exploratory committee to pinpoint the source of the Blazers’ issues, with head coach Terry Stotts and GM Neil Olshey emerging as its primary targets. Lillard has made clear that Stotts has his unbridled support.
Olshey, on the other hand, has had a wholly unremarkable tenure in Portland. He’s struck out on all of their marquee free agent targets the past few years and subsequently saddled the roster with bad contracts that have gobbled up precious cap space and left them without any flexibility to orchestrate attractive trade packages.
For now, the Blazers will have to go with what they have, but with any luck, Allen will heed Lillard’s request for urgency and enact the type of changes that will get the team over the hump.