LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard came forward this week with some very big statements about their future in Portland. And when two franchise cornerstones speak, the importance of their words can't be emphasized enough.
So when Aldridge was asked what made him change his non-committal stance on Portland, his reply was predictable and understandable.
“Because the team is better,” he said. “We’re headed in the right direction. We should be in the championship picture in a couple of years if we keep improving. That’s what I want. I want to win and we’re winning now. I’m happy.
“Neil did a great job of bringing in what we needed. He worked with me throughout the process. I’m happy. We’re winning and we look good. Look, I just want to win.”
Then, in the same report, Lillard said this:
“Portland just fits me,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “This is home to me. I’m very comfortable here. I think once guys spend a decent amount of time here, they’ll start to love it too.”
These are serious commitments from the team's most important players. It speaks to the team Neil Olshey has assembled and the job Terry Stotts has done coaching the group. It also reflects the confidence these players have in the front office and their teammates. This team has the best self-image of any Portland team in years. These guys feel good about their teammates and the way they play.
Players who feel good about themselves, their teammates and management have the best chance to be successful. In fact, I believe it to be almost a prerequisite for winning. And it was nice to hear the Blazers' two leaders step forward and speak with, more than anything, a real reflection of pride in the Portland Trail Blazers.
Yes, that's what it is -- pride. And that's a pretty important attribute the Trail Blazers haven't necessarily had for a while.