PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said he doesn't know if or when the NBA season will start up again, but if it does, he believes Portland is primed to make a run.
The Blazers were 29-37 and 3.5 games outside the playoff picture when the season was suspended on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the season started up again, Portland would likely get injured starters Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back.
The return of Nurkic and Collins, two of the Blazers' most important players, is what has the always confident Lillard convinced Portland could not only rally to make the playoffs but make some noise once they got there.
"Not only would they both be back but it's not like they're coming back right at their targeting date," Lillard said in a Zoom video conference with reporters on Tuesday. "We passed both guys' dates and then there's extra time added on. When we do get back, everybody's going to have a little bit of rust to shake off. They gonna fit right in, going to be a completely different situation. We'll be close to full strength, minus Rodney [Hood]."
Uncertainty continues to hang over the NBA's suspended season. Lillard said he's spoken to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and others at the league office, but he said he doesn't know what the plan is moving forward. He said he's trying to remain hopeful even though he knows it's possible the season could be canceled.
"I'm definitely worried that that's possible. But I'm encouraged because the league is doing everything in their power," he said.
If the season does resume — best estimates are a mid-to-late June restart date as a best-case scenario — Lillard said he believes teams should still have a chance to make the playoffs. He even floated the idea of the league holding something like the NCAA tournament.
"If there was any time for them to get super creative where people would be tuned in and excited I think now is the time," he said.
Lillard said one thing he doesn't want to see is a late finish to this season that pushes back the start of the 2020-21 season.
While he waits, Lillard said he's doing what he can to stay ready. The NBA has told players to avoid team training facilities, but Lillard has a gym at home where he's been able to work out.
"If you don't have a gym at home, you don't work. I'm fortunate," he said. "I'm just trying to stay on edge ready to come back whenever they call us back."
News and notes
Loving his time with Dame Jr.: Lillard said he's been a lot of time with his son. He said it's "a good feeling to be around that constantly." He said he's gained new appreciation for parenthood.
"For all the parents who do this on the regular, I have the most respect in the world for you, because this is a full-time job," he said.
Healthy at home: Lillard says he has not been tested for COVID-19 and is showing no symptoms of the virus. He said he's taking his temperature daily and staying at home.
To keep himself busy, he's been interacting with his teammates in group video chats, and watching TV. He's enjoyed some classic boxing matches, as well as shows like Ozark, Snowfall, All-American and Blacklist.
Lillard donates $100,000 to Moda Center employees: Lillard donated $100,000 to the Trail Blazers' COVID-19 Relief Fund, which helps support local nonprofits impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. He said he loves the response of players across the league who have stepped up to help those in need.
"My primary focus and concern has been how many people are out of work. How are people supposed to survive and continue to keep their houses stocked and have food and have water have the things necessary to survive with something like this going on," he said.
New collaboration for Dame D.O.L.L.A.: Lillard said he's working on some new music and will have a mixtape to release soon featuring a special guest.
"I got some new music. I'm gonna put out a mixtape soon," he said. "Me and Shaq got a song done."
Proud of his brother: Lillard also spoke about his older brother, Houston Lillard, who was recently named head football coach at Jefferson High School in Portland.
"I'm real proud of him," he said. "Getting that job is huge. He's getting a job where he can really impact those kids."
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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the source of Lillard's $100,000 donation.