While attending a protest related to the killing of George Floyd, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard did an interview with Lisa Robinson of Vanity Fair. Lillard and Robinson talked about different topics, including the alleged trade that almost sent him to the New York Knicks and the potential matchup between the Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
Robinson, who claimed that she was a Knicks’ fan, told Lillard that she wishes he would bring his talent to New York. Lillard said that he really loves playing in Madison Square Garden. Yet, while he didn’t seem to have any interest in playing for the Knicks right now, he revealed that there were some instances when he thought the Trail Blazers would send him to New York.
“I thought I was headed there a few years ago; I was hearing trade rumors,” Lillard told Robinson. “The Garden is my favorite place to play.”
It’s unclear when Lillard exactly heard the trade rumors linking him to the Knicks. However, according to Zach Braziller of the New York Post, in 2018, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said that if Lillard didn’t stay in Portland, his preferred teams were the Knicks and the Lakers.
Going back to the present time, Robinson asked Lillard about the status of the Trail Blazers in the 2019-20 season. When the NBA resumes on July 31 in Orlando, the Trail Blazers will be one of the NBA teams who could be given the opportunity to compete for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If they ended up as the No. 8 seed, Lillard and the Trail Blazers will be facing the No. 1 seed Lakers, who are currently the heavy favorites to fully dominate the Western Conference and win the 2020 NBA championship title.
Lillard is aware of how formidable the Lakers are right now, but he seems very confident that the Trail Blazers have what it takes to defeat them in a best-of-seven series.
“Of course,” Lillard said when asked if he wants to face James and the Lakers in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. “I think we could beat them.”
It’s easy to understand why Lillard is very optimistic that the Trail Blazers stand a chance against the Lakers. The Trail Blazers might have been out of the playoff race before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended, but when it resumes, two important members of their core — Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins — will be returning from injuries and are both expected to be 100 percent healthy in the playoffs. The Lakers may still be the favorites to advance in the second round, but a healthy Trail Blazers squad would likely give them a tough fight in a best-of-seven series.