Despite his best efforts to walk past it every day and ignore it, Damian Lillard is beginning to see the writing on the wall: The Portland Trail Blazers hopes at any kind of postseason are just about extinguished.
The Blazers are 4.5 games back of the 10th seed with 11 games remaining, five of which come against teams currently in the top six of the Western Conference standings.
Based on rumors coming out of NBA circles that have now been essentially confirmed by Dame himself, the all-NBA point guard is likely to end his best scoring season as a pro earlier than expected.
Damian Lillard will likely be shut down before the end of the 2023 season
"I’ll say this: Dame probably has five or six more games left before Portland probably shuts him down for the season. There’s no use playing the duration of these games."
Lillard isn’t the type of player or person to willingly admit defeat and hang it up early, whether it’s because he wants to keep fighting or simply because he wants to play basketball.
But after a 117-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on March 19, he began to begrudgingly look at the bigger picture. Per Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report, Dame admitted as much:
"You look at what other teams are doing, they’re creating separation, and we’re on a losing streak. We’ve pretty much fallen out of the race for the 10th spot unless we win every game, if you really look at it truthfully."
Even if Lillard averages 71 points through the final 11 contests, Portland isn’t going to win every game. Maybe not even half of them.
“I love to play, I love the competition, I’m just not ready to give that up,” Lillard continued via Highkin. “But it does come a point in time where you look around and wonder when you stop putting your competitive nature up front and start thinking about what a game of chess might look like.”
Either way, it’s become a depressing end to what’s been perhaps the best season in the career of the best player in franchise history.
Portland has an important offseason ahead, which should finally include pulling out all the stops to give the 32-year-old Lillard a roster he can drag toward a title, not the play-in tournament.