If anyone is hungry for a championship, it’s Damian Lillard. Eight seasons deep in his career, Dame is all about winning at this point. But after a surprising visit to the Western Conference Finals a season ago, Dame and the Blazers have had their problems securing a playoff spot out west.
It’s been a struggle to say the least for Portland. Throughout the season, they were left without their top notch big man in Jusuf Nurkic and one of their key bench players in Zach Collins. Even without both Nurkic and Collins, many would say that with the firepower of both Dame and CJ McCollum would make up for the losses. But every team needs great role players as Portland has struggled all year to make up for the two losses.
From my point of view, CJ McCollum hasn’t been the same dynamic 2nd man next to Dame this season. His numbers may say that he’s playing solid, but the impact is different. CJ has his moments in the game where he lacks assertiveness and it is what causes them to blow opportunities to win basketball games. If the Blazers are going to play in the postseason in Orlando, then McCollum must be more of a dominant force besides Dame for Portland to get through.
Dame is VERY hungry to get in the playoffs. With everyone anticipating a LeBron-Zion first round matchup, quietly Dame will be creeping up for the 8 seed behind Memphis and right above New Orleans. We know Dame made his controversial comments a while back about not playing in Orlando. But now that he still has an opportunity to squeeze in the playoffs, no question Dame is going hard all 8 games of the regular season.
Being the vet that he is, Dame understands what he has to do as a leader to bring his team together. Regardless of who is going to Orlando or not, it is up to their leader to set the tone for the Blazers from training camp on to have everyone on the same page. This Portland roster has very great postseason experience to say the least. And they can make a quick run throughout the rest of the season to knock off the young teams trying to find their way in the playoffs. With everyone clicking along with Dame being Dame, a miracle could possibly happen for the Blazers.
Believe it or not, Portland can win the majority of their games looking at their schedule. If they play their cards right, they can dominate a young Memphis team led by a hungry Ja Morant. They have shown that they can compete with Houston and their small-ball system earlier in the year. And also if they play exceptional basketball for 48 minutes, they could possibly upset the Clippers on a good night. It’s all about the X’s and O’s during these eight games and who wants it more.
Expect Dame to put up monster numbers once the NBA returns. After a marvelous postseason a season ago, it would look bad on his resume if he missed the playoffs this season. Yes, everyone anticipates for Zion to face LeBron in the first round. But as much of a competitor that Dame is, no question he can spoil Zion or Ja’s first playoff season with a historic run to give his team the 8th seed.