After all the new arrivals and departures, the NBA Western Conference is set to have one of the most competitive seasons in a long time. Now teams around the West will try to get the Larry O’Brien trophy home pairing two stars instead of assembling superteams, which was the common practice in the last 4 or 5 years.
However, some people still think the West has pretty impressive squads who will try to dominate. One of those is the Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who thinks the competition will be harder next season in the conference.
The All-Star guard had a Q&A session with Jason Quick of The Athletic, where he went to discuss a variety of topics, including the challenge of having a Western Conference full of good squads, Russell Westbrook’s arrival to Houston and how he sees his team ahead of the new season.
Per The Athletic:
What did you think about [Russell] Westbrook going to Houston?
Lillard: “I mean, Paul George was traded, then I think [Jerami] Grant got traded to Denver … once I started seeing real pieces of the team starting to get moved around, I figured either he was next and they were starting over or he was going to tell them, you know, I don’t want to be a part of a complete rebuild. So I’m not going to say I was surprised, but I didn’t expect him to go to Houston.”
Did you think about your role in that?
Lillard: “My role? Hey man (smiling) … I just do my job … and go home. Nothing to do with that.”
Do you feel the West is as wide open as it has been in years?
Lillard: “I’ve heard a few people say that because you know, [Kevin Durant] left and Klay [Thompson] suffered a tough injury, so people know they won’t be the same team so they think it’s wide open, but the West is still super competitive. Everybody has firepower. At first, everybody was calling the Clippers a tough team, they played hard, and now they’ve got Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. And now Anthony Davis plays for the Lakers and New Orleans has all this young talent that is going to be able to compete. You know, I don’t think people give them enough credit. And then Utah picked up all these guys. So it might look more balanced but it probably got tougher to win in the West because every team is good now. Sacramento is a year older, Phoenix is a year older, I mean all these teams, they are coming. Like I said, everybody sees it as wide open, but it’s definitely not. There’s a lot of good teams.”
Lillard and his Trail Blazers had an entertaining offseason, too, landing players that can help them take things to the next level and make some noise in the postseason. However, we still have to wait until the NBA starts to see how things are going to develop for Portland and the rest of the teams.