Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard says he won’t play if the NBA returns this season unless his team gets a “true opportunity” to make the playoffs.
The NBA has been suspended indefinitely since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic. League officials have spoken with The Walt Disney Company about a possible season resumption at the end of July at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.
The Blazers were in ninth place — one spot out of the Western Conference playoff picture — when the season was halted and trailed the Memphis Grizzlies by 3.5 games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It remains unclear if the NBA will finish the regular season or jump straight into the playoffs if players are allowed to return to the court.
“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports.
“But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now.”
The NHL on Tuesday announced a “return to play plan” for the 2019-2020 campaign. That plan includes a jump into a 24-team playoff tournament and no finish to the regular season. Playoff games will tentatively be played inside empty arenas at two undecided hub cities.
Lillard said he hopes the NBA will offer a play-in style tournament, which would include the No. 7 through No. 12 seed in each respective conference.
Lillard, 29, was averaging a career-high 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game before the season was suspended.