While touring the Philippines with a group of NBA ballers, including James Harden, Blake Griffin, and Kawhi Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was scheduled to make a promotional appearance in Manila.
The event was cancelled, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, after the organizers of the exhibition failed to get league approval for the events. Some players were going to be paid $150,000 for their appearance.
The crackdown by the NBA comes as little surprise, because all promotional activities without NBA approval are forbidden. The NBA did raise some eyebrows with the severity of the punishment for participating in the exhibition, which included hefty fines and possible suspensions.
I understand why the NBA has such stringent rules for promotional activities, but this seems a little harsh. In 2011, the event organizers also hosted an event in which Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Derrick Rose attended. That event, however, was during the NBA lockout, and the NBA had no control over promotional activities that summer, as the NBA and Player’s Union were discussing the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Regardless of how you feel about the NBA’s strict regulations, it’s a good thing the event was cancelled from a Trail Blazers’ perspective. Lillard was not fined or suspended, but it does shine a light on a bigger issue that causes me to lose sleep at night: What happens if Lillard misses games?
Lillard missing any time at all could be extremely detrimental to the Trail Blazers’ playoffs hopes next season. Losing a game here or there could mean all the difference in the West, and Portland needs Lillard on the court as much as possible. Sure, Steve Blake would be a serviceable replacement, if he had to start a few games, but where would the Blazers go next? Will Barton? C.J. McCollum? This is my nightmare.
The thought of Lillard missing any games next season is truly terrifying. In the West, if a team loses one of their two best players for any real length of time, even the best teams could be in danger of missing the playoffs. Look at the Memphis Grizzlies from last season. Marc Gasol missed six weeks of action and the Grizz barely made it into the playoffs. The margin is that thin.
Portland dodged a minor bullet with Lillard in the Philippines. He’s not missing any games because of the issue. And, on the bright side, everything is better than okay in Portland right now. But… on the other hand, everything was okay on the Titanic before they hit the iceberg. In fact, it looked like a really swell time if James Cameron’s Titanic is truly historically accurate… until they hit the ‘berg, that is.
Let’s just hope Lillard and Trail Blazers can avoid their iceberg next season and keep the ship afloat.