Damian Lillard stopped well short of requesting a trade from the Trail Blazers, or even directly addressing his future in Portland.
During a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, though, Lillard made abundantly clear that the Blazers' status quo won't bring a championship to Rip City—and that he longs to play for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
"We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed," Lillard told Haynes. "I was like, ‘Man, this just isn't going to work.’ We're not winning the championship, but we’ve got a successful organization. We're not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided. We have positive seasons; we just don't end up with a championship. So I feel like at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you've always been."
Neil Olshey has suggested on multiple occasions this offseason that Portland is unlikely to make significant changes to the roster before next summer. Chauncey Billups hinted at the same during his introductory press conference, and Jusuf Nurkic said last month that he was told the only turnover in Portland this summer would come at head coach.
Lillard, by contrast, hasn't shied away from directly discussing the Blazers' insurmountable deficiencies as currently constructed.
"Obviously, where we are isn't good enough to win the championship if it's not good enough for us to get out of a first-round series with two of their best three or four players not on the floor," he said after Portland's Game 6 loss to Denver.
Yahoo's prior report about Lillard's frustration with Portland's coaching search included a note on his "concerns" about whether the Blazers can build a championship supporting cast around him.
Lillard didn't mention any frustration about the context of Portland's coaching search in his interview with Haynes, nor single out new details about the team's sham investigation into 1997 rape allegations against Billups.
His obvious apprehension at the state of the Blazers was conveyed solely through basketball terms of consistently "coming up short" of the ultimate goal.
"I think that's the stage we're at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organization must look in the mirror because we’ve constantly come up short," Lillard said to Haynes. "We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we’re doing is not working and it’s not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on."
This isn't the first time Lillard has asked his Portland compatriots to "look in the mirror." After a loss to the Utah Jazz in early April, another blowout defeat at hands of a contender, Lillard stressed the need for the Blazers to give an honest assessment of their poor performance against top-level teams.
While a frank self-evaluation no doubt contributed to Portland's late-season surge entering the playoffs, the postseason result speaks for itself.
Lillard, prepping for the Olympics with Team USA, told Haynes that he hasn't caught much of the ongoing NBA Finals. When he has tuned in to watch the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, though, Lillard feels an itch that won't be scratched until he's competing for a title himself.
"I literally watched the last eight minutes the other night...It’s like you almost get jealous," he said. "Like, damn, I’m enjoying my experience with Team USA, but I'd rather be one of the teams still playing."
If Portland indeed doesn't make the personnel changes everyone but Lillard indicates aren't coming, he's bound to feel the same way a year from now. Well, unless Lillard forces his way out of Rip City to a franchise more intent on helping him play for a championship before then.