There’s still no final word as to when or how NBA play will resume after the league was suspended on March 11 because of COVID-19.
It could go straight into the playoffs with the teams that qualify, or the league could have teams play a small number of games to fulfill television deals.
If games are played to fulfill those regional deals, Damian Lillard said he won’t participate unless his Portland Trail Blazers team has a real shot at making the playoffs.
The Blazers left off in ninth place before the season was suspended with a record of 29-37.
“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,” he told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday in a phone interview. “But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now, and you can put that in there.”
Lillard was explicit about his intentions as he continued: “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 star point guard was called a “spoiled and entitled brat” by former NFL player and analyst Dan Orlovsky on Twitter, which he responded to.
“Entitled and spoiled? Mf watch yo mouth,” Lillard tweeted on Thursday. “My background, family, and character couldn’t be further FROM entitled and spoiled. I said what I said!”
Meanwhile, many NBA teams have begun training in their practice facilities after they’ve been closed since March.
Lillard returned to the Blazers’ facility on May 8 and told ESPN what the first couple of weeks were like.
“The whole first week was a breath of fresh air,” he explained. “On a certain level, it was exciting. You’re finally back on the court and you’re seeing everyone’s faces again. … The second week everyone is like, ‘All right, this is kind of weird.’ The excitement is gone and now it’s, ‘What going on?'”
Lillard and the rest of his teammates have to follow stringent NBA-set guidelines while at the facility, so everyone can stay healthy.
Only four players can be in the facility at once, and just for 90 minutes, for example. But only one player at a time can use the weight room and therapy section.
Upon entering the practice center, Lillard and his teammates have to wear a face mask, then go straight to a check-in area where temperatures are taken with an infrared thermometer.
They also have to place their car keys, wallet and phone into a ziplock bag, then wash their hands before being given rubber gloves to wear.
“There’s so much stuff you never realize or appreciate you have access to until you’re without it,” said Lillard. “But it was still good to be back. … [The facility] is the place where the culture is built. It’s fulfilling to be in that environment. It’s part of the balance of our lives and you come to count on that.”
As of now, the only NBA teams that don’t have their practice centers open are the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.