Damian Lillard spent eight years playing alongside CJ McCollum. So when the latter was traded to New Orleans earlier this month, although he saw it coming, Dame had a tough time dealing with the fact he'll no longer have his brother by his side. He opened up about it during a recent episode of "The Draymond Green Show."
"That s--- was tough to deal with"
“You get to a point where maybe something has run its course. You gotta re-route yourself and try to figure out what’s the best thing, what’s the best angle to take at this point,” Lillard said. "That s--- was tough to deal with, bruh, I ain’t gonna lie. You know when you know something could be coming and you know that it’s a possibility, but when it happens it’s different, like damn! And I’ve kinda been stuck in that space the whole time."
The Trail Blazers traded CJ to New Orleans along with Tony Snell and Larry Nance Jr. in exchange for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomáš Satoranský, Didi Louzada, a future first-round pick, and two second-round picks. It was one of many moves they pulled off in an attempt to clear cap space to build a championship-level roster around Lillard.
And while this one, in particular, came as a surprise, without the previous rumblings from around the NBA community, both Dame and CJ were aware of the possibility of a trade. According to Lillard, the two had talked about it a couple of days before it happened.
So when the news broke out, both of them were prepared. However, weeks after McCollum left Portland, Damian still struggles with accepting this new reality.
“Like I’ve been watching every game in New Orleans like damn, he really ain’t coming back. It’s over. That’s kind of where I’ve been at. I still kinda haven’t even really moved past it because I ain’t have to play... The end of an era, bruh.”
Good move for both sides
Dame is yet to suit up for the Blazers after the trade went down -- he's been out with an abdominal injury since early January. Once he's back, Lillard expects the coming to terms part to be postponed for a little longer.
But emotions aside, he knows this was a good move for both sides. The Trail Blazers get the opportunity for a much-needed revamp -- this might be their one last attempt to build a contender around Dame -- while McCollum gets the chance to impose himself as a No.1 option offensive option, especially with Zion Williamson out with injury.
So far, he's off to a great start, averaging 28.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 51.4% from the field and 42.5% from three in his first five games with his new team. CJ's numbers are yet to translate to wins -- the Pelicans are 1-4 over the stretch, sitting as the 12th seed in the West with a 23-36 record -- nor do they have to.
Despite all the questions surrounding Zion, New Orleans isn't in win-now mode. The Trail Blazers, however, are. Despite making the playoffs for eight straight seasons with CJ and Dame on the team -- the longest active streak in the NBA -- one of the best backcourt duos wasn't enough to bring them to the promised land.
Now, McCollum is out of the picture, and the organization has seemingly done enough to go after a big-name over the summer -- they will have around $60 million to work with.
Having CJ alongside Dame got them as far as the WCF in 2019. Whoever they bring to play alongside Lillard next better be good enough to lead them a step further. Dame Time is now!