In an era full of ring chasers and superstars teaming up together, Damian Lillard is often applauded for remaining loyal to the Portland Trail Blazers, the organization that drafted him in 2012. Lillard has put the Blazers on the map and has a solid case to be the greatest Blazer of all time, but what stands out the most about him is his insistence on remaining with the Blazers, no matter if they put a competitive team around him or not.
Rings or loyalty?
While Dame is often applauded for his loyalty, he also receives a lot of questions about his decision. Former NBA players like JR Smith and Gilbert Arenas believe players should never waste their talent by being on a team that can't uplift them.
However, some superstars prioritize staying true to their teams. Given the current cap rules, the money doesn't hurt either -- Lillard signed a $225 million contract extension this summer.
"That's how I feel about Dame," Smith said after he and Arenas discussed the conflict between chasing rings and remaining loyal. "I love Dame. I love his game. I respect him for doing what he's doing. But at the same time, it's like, 'You just gonna rot in Portland, bro?'" Smith added.
"Like you are unbelievable, literally like go get a bucket and he'll get it. He's shown that he can play hard as hell and all of that but if it's my career, I'm trying to win, bro," Smith concluded.
Lillard, who is coming off an injury-riddled year, is expected to bounce back this season after only playing just 29 games last season. After coming up short in the Western Conference in 2019, Lillard and the Blazers have underachieved since, with multiple early season and Playoff exits in a row for the past 3 seasons.
Why Lillard is right to chase the bag
In this era of player empowerment, it's not a surprise that players are chasing big-time contracts because news flash, commitment is a rare sight in the NBA these days. We're seeing it with Kevin Durant now, who just asked for trade while in the middle of a 4-year contract with the Brooklyn Nets, and the same way with the likes of James Harden and Ben Simmons in the past 2 seasons.
So, it's not a surprise that Lillard accepted the huge contract while it was up for grabs for him because he can always do the ring chasing in the future. Who knows? Maybe the Blazers eventually trade Lillard when they finally realize that they're not going anywhere in this iteration of the team.