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Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard had little good to offer after his club was eliminated by the Denver Nuggets, 126-115, in Game 6 on Thursday.
Instead he stated the obvious: Portland can’t contend as constructed.
Royce Young @royceyoung
Damian Lillard on if the Blazers need changes this offseason: “Obviously where we are isn’t good enough to win a championship if it’s not good enough to get out of a first round series with two of their best three or four players not on the floor.” pic.twitter.com/gbXkqDko0s
It’s the fourth time in the past five years Portland has failed to advance out of the first round, and this may be the year the Blazers front office has no choice but to change things up or risk getting stagnant.
“Regardless of how it ended, we’re going to always have our heads held high, have class, and go about it like real warriors,” Lillard said. “We lost, they’re the better team, congrats to them and it’s back to the drawing board for us.”
Orlando Sanchez @orlandokgw
“Regardless of how it ended, we’re going to always have our heads held high, have class, and go about it like real warriors. We lost, they’re the better team, congrats to them and it’s back to the drawing board for us”
Damian Lillard on message to the team#RipCity pic.twitter.com/jRwHKJrCBL
The first person who’ll likely have the spotlight on him this offseason is head coach Terry Stotts. The 63-year-old has only made it past the first round three times in eight attempts with Portland, never going further than a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2018-19.
Since taking over the franchise in 2012, Stotts is 360-288 in the regular season and 20-36 in the playoffs. He has one year remaining on his current contract.
General manager Neil Olshey will have to take his fair share of the blame as well after failing to build around Lillard during that same time frame.
And that’s just the prelude to an offseason that could see a number of stars depart.
CJ McCollum is about to begin a three-year, $100 million extension, while Jusuf Nurkic, Robert Covington, Norman Powell, Derrick Jones Jr., Anfernee Simons, Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony all prepare to enter free agency.
Only McCollum and Lillard are locked in long-term with Lillard signed through 2025.
Whether or not it’s Olshey and Stotts coming up with the path forward, the Blazers have proven year after year they don’t have the roster to make a run for the title.