Damian Lillard was drafted into the NBA nearly 11 years ago, and the league has changed tremendously since then.
That’s straight out of the horse’s mouth, by the way: The Portland Trail Blazers superstar admitted he’s not a fan of how much the association has changed since his rookie year.
On JJ Redick’s «Old Man And The 3» podcast, the Portland Trail Blazers star said that younger players are now entitled due to the lack of veteran presence and often receive «the keys to the franchise» at the when they are recruited:
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«When I came into the league, Jason Kidd was starting for the Knicks and Grant Hill and Kurt Thomas and Kenyon Martin. They were really older guys in the league. I played with Jared Jeffries, I was 40, 41 or something. Earl Watson was 40 years old. when I played with him,» Lillard said.
«I played with real veterans, and I learned a lot of things, like being a point guard or how to lead from Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jared Jeffries. And they didn’t even play, it was just the way they played.» He showed me how things had to be done, I had no choice but to respect the game. I didn’t have, the word I was looking for is right. Like, when I came to the league, you had to earn not just what you get from the team or respect: you had to earn your space on the team.
«There was no ‘You’re the sixth pick in the draft, it’s your team.’ What’s this about your team? I think now, the biggest difference is you don’t have that veteran presence. So you have players who are more talented than never making it to the league, they get drafted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, they’re making more money than those picks, so not only that, now you’re giving them the keys to the franchise.
«There’s no one there to really let them know, ‘You’re super talented, but you’ve got to win stuff around here. You’ve got to earn a living.'» They come and they are given everything from the beginning. So that affects how they are, how they play. They play for themselves, they play for the statistics. They think they are LeBron James when they make an All-Star Game. or get a maximum contract. It’s just different. I don’t know how to fully put it together, but the NBA I play in now is not the NBA I came in.»
Lillard is a future Hall of Famer, but one thing is missing from his resume: an NBA title.
The 32-year-old has remained loyal to the Trail Blazers, who drafted him sixth overall in 2012, when he could very easily have been traded or signed to a championship roster. Staying in Oregon has likely cost you some gems.
But Lillard isn’t a fan of the NBA turning into ring culture.
«I feel like I play for the love of the game. I want the competition, I want to know what it feels like to win, I want to see my teammates do well, I want to see my teammates get paid, I enjoy the bonding is part of it, we spend more time together than Nobody, but now it’s like, ‘That doesn’t count, the regular season doesn’t count, get a ring,’ he said.
«This guy is the MVP, this guy did this.» What is this? I don’t want to talk about my situation, but I was talking after a game about a week ago and someone was asking me if I could win a ring, and I said I didn’t need to. Show everyone that I want to win a ring. Why the hell am I playing? While I understand we play to win championships, we all want to win the championship, we can’t keep acting like nothing matters.
«Like the rest of these things, the journey, it doesn’t matter. We can’t keep doing that. I feel like there are a lot of ways the league is different, and I think about that all the time I’m like, man, no. I know if I can play a long, long time, because I don’t enjoy what the NBA as a whole is becoming.»
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He hears all the noise about how he doesn’t have a title, how he should team up with this superstar or that superstar, or how he should be a better recruiter for Portland.
But it doesn’t bother him. As?
“I have a real life. I think that’s the best way to say it. I don’t like my life as ‘Damian Lillard’. I go home, I play with my kids, I go to my mom’s house, I go out with my cousins. I have a life. I talk to my grandmother on the phone. My uncle calls me and we all talk on the phone. night about normal things. I have a life that is stable, and it’s not based on who I am as an NBA player…
«I don’t sit here and just think ‘I have to go’ all the time… When my career is over, they’re not going to talk about me. They’re going to talk about Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, whoever, when it’s over to play…why am I sitting here so worried about what each person has to say about me when they don’t know my life?When they get off that camera, and when I’m done playing, they don’t think about me.No They think of Michael Jordan, so why would they think of me? Why should I care about that?»
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Barring a miracle, Lillard won’t win a title this season, which is his 12th in the NBA. The Blazers are 31-37 and 13 in the Western Conference, two games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the final spot in the play-in tournament (ironically, that’s where his former teammate CJ McCollum is).
Needless to say, he’s upset about his team’s lack of success this season and his team’s lack of postseason success throughout his career.
But no matter how it ends, he seems to be at peace with all the decisions he made in professional basketball.