Even though the Portland Trail Blazers are 19-27 (.413) and sit 2.5 games behind a playoff seed, Damian Lillard insists his dedication to the organization will not hinge on the front office making a win-now move ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
"It’s not like we are going to do something that is going to take us to the championship at this point," Lillard told The Athletic's Jason Quick. "I think it’s more important for us to protect the assets we have, the guys who are going to be here and who are going to help us going forward. I don’t think it makes sense to sacrifice that just to make a desperate play.
"It’s been a tough season, but the season is not over. We can make something of this season as we are, but it’s not worth, you know, saying, 'OK, let’s force something and go do something that at the end of the day doesn’t make sense.' But that has nothing to do with my commitment. I said it after last game (versus the Golden State Warriors): I feel like I can find a way. I can weather the storm. I can go through hard times."
Lillard is putting up career-high averages in points (28.3), assists (7.6), and effective field-goal percentage (54.4%), but the Trail Blazers' litany of injuries - Rodney Hood's torn Achilles, Zach Collins' dislocated shoulder, and Jusuf Nurkic's long recovery from last season's leg injury chief among them - have robbed the team of any early-season momentum.
It's taken some of the best basketball of Lillard's career to keep the team competitive on a nightly basis, and even that hasn't been enough in some cases. It took a career-high 61 points and an overtime frame for the Blazers to squeak by the league-worst Warriors on Jan. 20. He then dropped 47 points in their next game at home against the Dallas Mavericks, but the visitors left with an eight-point win.
If there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon, it's that the Blazers have 20 home games remaining compared to just 16 road contests. Their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .508, ranking 12th in the league in strength of schedule, according to Tankathon.