With everything starting to transition back to the new normal we have to admit it is exciting and also somewhat risky to try to go back to “normal” overnight. I certainly do not envy those in leadership positions having to make these calls, especially when the impact and risk are very much unknown!
Back in April, I had the opportunity to participate in a press conference with Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard. At that time, Lillard’s priority was to make sure everyone in his team, the league and his community were safe. He consistently expressed his concern about those who could not work and a return to the league was certainly only a wishful thought.
“If you don’t have a gym at home, you don’t work. I’m fortunate,” he said at one point. “I’m just trying to stay on edge ready to come back whenever they call us back.”
Forward seven or eight weeks and here we are in the middle of the conversation around the NBA reopening to finish the season. There is certainly the concern of how much are we willing to risk as well as how do you reopen? Do you just pick up where you left? How do you take this back to the “new normal”?
Having all of this considered and having heard Lillard’s stance on reopening back in April, it comes as no surprise to me that Lillard would like a fair shot at playing just like he had envisioned and planned not only as an individual but as a whole team.
During the interview in April, the Portland Blazers’ star clearly acknowledged the season had not gone as planned and they had fallen short. He even went as far as saying how unfortunate this was but how much more challenging it would be for a team such as the Lakers who had been having a phenomenal season thus far, so I guess I am a bit confused with his stance.
Then again, if I was to put myself in Lillard’s shoes, I guess I can see where he is coming from. True, the Blazers had not been doing that well, but we all know they could have bounced back. In fact we all expected them to do so, as that has come to be one of the team’s strengths.
Having that in mind, it is no surprise that Lillard is not willing to put himself through what could certainly be nothing but playing for show or as a formality and not necessarily for a legitimate chance at making a comeback which they would’ve had a chance at had the season continued.
So yes, I can see his point. What I cannot understand is his stance of “I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team,”… “But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now.“. We all know Lillard is a great leader. There is no question about that. There is a reason he is the face of the team and he has rightfully earned his spot. But one cannot help to feel confused as to why a man who loves his team and basketball so much would flat out refuse to play regardless of the circumstances the league places before his eyes.
Again, I can’t say this enough, I get it! Personally I might do the same thing if I was him! But the thing is that this is not a personal kind of thing. This is a team! While I can understand Lillard’s questioning what the process will be like, I must say that statement does not necessarily sound like he is processing this as a teammate, let alone a leader!
Team sports is all about the team! If you are going to show up when the NBA calls, you can’t just say you will do your job halfway. Forget about the league’s officials or even us the fans! But you cannot leave your team hanging like that!
So the question now is, what will the NBA do? I am sure Lillard isn’t the only one feeling weird about this. And once again, I do not envy the officials having to reinvent the season over night. And with strong stances and questions such as this, I anticipate the NBA will be working extra hard to overcome another obstacle from an already difficult re-start.
Now if they get it just right, we can all be in for a surprise, including Lillard! This really goes back to the lap of the NBA on making sure that they give us all (including players) a very much needed high in these uncertain times. A restart that will go down in history by acknowledging each of the teams and their players to make sure that no one feels “cheated” out of their fair chance all while giving us the high that we are all desperately waiting for.
It will certainly be interesting to see what that will look like. Maybe they will grant Lillard’s wish and propose a March Madness tournament kind of deal. Maybe they will just drop each team back in the slot where they were. We of course are not sure, but what we do know is that we want to see all of our teams and players back on the court, including Lillard! So I hope the NBA will meet everyone’s expectations and certainly Lillard will reconsider or why not, take back his stance of not playing at all.
Whatever they decide to do we are all in the precipice of a one of a kind NBA season and I personally cannot wait!