PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard has become more outspoken as the leader of this young Portland Trail Blazers team. He has made it clear he doesn’t want to join some super team like other NBA stars.

He dreams of Portland winning a championship and having a parade down Broadway in downtown. He believes he could win a league MVP. All of these things tell you all you need to know about what kind of leader Lillard is. He wants to win and believes this current Blazer team could win big, right now. He isn’t interested in leaving like LaMarcus Aldridge did last summer. He’d rather battle with the guys he has on his team, because he believes in his teammates.

He remembers how they battled the Golden State Warriors in last year’s playoffs. He recognizes how they close they are to that next step.

“This year I want to get to the Western Conference finals and give ourselves a chance to get to the Finals,” Lillard said, according to ESPN’s J.A. Adande. “I think it’s possible.”

Lillard believes in himself and the guys that Portland has put around him. Evidently the team believes in the guys they have around him as well, with all the re-signed players it brought back this offseason.

He doesn’t shy away from the role of the franchise player, the leader of a team, or the big-time moments in a game. He likes to describe his teammates as ‘dogs’, in reference to guys who have a lot of fight in them. If you look at his story, it’s remarkable to see how far he has risen, but I bet he knew all along that he could reach the heights he has earned in this league. Dame has stepped up to the challenge of becoming the leader of this team after four starters left last summer. He thinks Portland has an opportunity to take the next step now.

His belief and play on the court make him a special kind of player. He loves to prove doubters wrong as he was overlooked by a lot of big schools in college. Even though it will be tough for Portland to reach the Western Conference Finals and win, I wouldn’t count Lillard and these Trail Blazers out. He believes for a reason and maybe that reason is because they are good enough to win the west. Portland now has its leader in Lillard who stands up to a challenge and faces it head on.