On the surface, Damian Lillard’s words captured preseason platitudes about the Portland Trail Blazers and their chances to win an NBA championship this season. “I’m optimistic. I’m a believer,” Lillard said. “And I love this organization.”
May 16, 2022 | 9:00 pm EDT Update
Kyrie Irving — who has a decision to make next month on whether to opt-in to the final year of his Brooklyn contract — sat down for the latest “I Am Athlete” episode. He lifted the lid on a host of topics, including saying the Cavaliers would’ve stayed together longer and won more if he’d been more mature. “If I was in the same maturity line and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships, because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through. I didn’t know how to share my emotions,” Irving said. “I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”
Kyrie Irving: “I just started pouring myself more into the game — I had one of my better seasons but I wasn’t connecting with everybody as much during the championship year. So 2017, it was a different year for us. We went against Golden State, we went against a great team. When you’re not a great team and not clicking on all cylinders and together, you’re easily defeated. You’re defeated before you can get to the arena.”
While Irving has a $36.5 million opt-in decision to make, he’s at a different place in his life than he was when he asked out of Cleveland at 24. In hindsight, he regrets not speaking to LeBron James beforehand. “We didn’t talk during that time,” Irving admitted. “When I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did, because it would’ve been a good understanding of what the future will hold for both of us and we know how much power we both had together. Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it.”
“Frustrating from an organizational standpoint. but even more so from Ben’s,: said Marks. “I had a conversation with Ben. We all did. We saw how he wanted to get out there. To be honest, I’ve got to admire that. He tries to do 3-on-3, 5-on-5 and then you turn around and get an MRI, You see the disc herniation has gotten worse. and you think, well this guy is pushing through something that he shouldn’t be pushing through. Nobody wants to have surgery. It’s the last resort but it’s bygone now and we’ve got to move forward on this, we’ve got to support him and so forth.”
Asked for lessons learned from the Simmons off-again, on-again saga. Marks used the opportunity to critique the critics. “It’s a little bit of a testament that 1) he tried to get back out there and tried to help his teammates and secondly, we have to be careful not judge people. And if you’re outside that medical profession, when you’re chiming in from afar. You just have to be a bit careful of what you’re saying because you really don’t know,” said Marks.
Marks spoke as well about he and Steve Nash have had “honest conversations” both about last season and the upcoming one. He reiterated the need for “high character players” and said he “could see no reason why” both Joe Harris and Seth Curry won’t be back healthy and ready for camp. “The ultimate goal hasn’t changed, that’s to be the last team standing.”
Young LeBron James has been found. Marquis “Mookie” Cook, a high-ranking high school basketball player, has been cast as the NBA superstar in Shooting Stars, Universal and SpringHill Co.’s adaptation of the 2009 book by James and Buzz Bissinger.