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Blazers Guard Damian Lillard Says Play-In Tournament For NBA Postseason ‘Would Be Perfect’

Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers scores on a dunk in a 108-98 win over the Los Angeles Clippers during Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Weber State and current Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said that he believes a play-in tournament for teams currently outside of the NBA Playoffs picture “would be perfect.”

Lillard joined ESPN‘s Jalen & Jacoby on Wednesday, May 27 to discuss the league’s hopeful restart of the 2019-20 season.

“I feel like a play-in tournament would be perfect, just because we actually were in striking distance and also had enough games to get in the playoffs,” Lillard said. “But to that point, if they did decide that we’re just gonna go straight to the playoffs, obviously, we would all be disappointed… We haven’t performed to be in that top eight. So if that’s the case, then fine. But if we’re gonna just come back to play games, I feel like that’d be harder on everybody else.”

The guard’s comments to ESPN came one day after he told Yahoo! Sports that if the NBA resumed with every team participating and if the games are meaningless, he would be sitting on the bench.

“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,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports. “But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there.”

Lillard told ESPN that he felt his comments to Haynes were “taken out of context because it was a casual conversation.”

“It was like, ‘expletive this, expletive that,’ but it wasn’t a demonstrative statement,” Lillard said on May 27. “I was just saying we’ve been off for two months and if we come back, we want to play for something. So after this type of break, usually when you come back, especially with how fast we’re gonna be jumping into playing, I think guys are at risk for injury, also at risk of being exposed to whatever because none of us have been around each other if so many teams are gonna be in one spot… Obviously, as players, we want to play, but we want to play for something — especially if we’re in position to play for that in the first place.”

Several teams in the league still have a statistical chance of making the postseason while some team’s playoff hopes are already gone. Unless the NBA were to host a full 30 team play-in tournament, some teams could look to sit out the league’s restart.

The Trail Blazers have played 66 games and have a 29-37 record before the season was put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA has not announced whether they will finish the entire 82-game regular-season schedule, play a portion of the remaining schedule or go straight to the playoffs.

“This is usually when it’s our break and if we’re gonna come back and not actually be able to play for an opportunity to continue to play, then I feel like some guys would prefer to just go on about their summer,” Lillard told ESPN. “I want to play. I’ve said that many times: I want to play. I just want to play for an opportunity to be in the postseason. I didn’t feel like that was a bad statement.”

Portland is currently in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot.

Recent reports say that the NBA is looking to restart the season sometime in July or August at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Click here to listen to Lillard’s full interview with ESPN’S Jalen & Jacoby.

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