NBA

Coronavirus: Lillard won't play in shortened NBA season if Trail Blazers can't make playoffs

By Sports Desk May 26, 2020

It has not been announced how the 2019-20 NBA season will be concluded if games resume, but Portland star Damian Lillard says he will not play if the Trail Blazers do not have a shot at a playoff spot.

Preliminary discussions have taken place between the NBA and the Walt Disney Company about resuming the 2019-20 season at an isolated site near Orlando, Florida in late July, but the league still has not settled on a format for a return. 

It has been reported the NBA would like teams to reach a total of 70 regular season games – about five more for most clubs – to fulfil its contracts with local broadcast affiliates.

The Trail Blazers have played 66 games, and at 29-37 they sit in ninth place in the Western Conference, three and a half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Speaking to Yahoo Sports, Lillard said: "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.

"If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games."

The NHL has proposed a 24-team playoff bracket, and Lillard would be open to something similar.

“If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the number seven and number 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect," the five-time All-Star said.

Lillard, who is fifth in the NBA in scoring this season with a career-best 28.9 points per game, also likes Portland's chances to make a deep run if the team is the playoff picture.

The Blazers advanced to the Western Conference finals last year, and should have center Jusuf Nurkic and power forward Zach Collins in the line-up when games resume after the two combined to miss all but three games due to injuries before the season was paused.

"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 said.

"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, we can come in here and beat everybody.”

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