Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said he wants the team to be more aggressive about trying to win. Steve Dykes/Associated Press

Damian Lillard said Friday he has not requested a trade but wants the Portland Trail Blazers to be more urgent in their pursuit of a championship.

The All-Star guard added that he expects to be with the Blazers next season, but made clear that he feels it needs to be with more talent around him.

Lillard praised Portland as a great city with great fans and said there is pride that the organization is a perennial playoff team.

“It’s a lot of positive,” Lillard said. “But I just think we’ve reached that point where it’s like, OK, but it’s not enough. Do we actually want to win it all? Is that what we’re shooting for and we’ve got to do things to show that. We’ve got to put action behind that desire to win at that level.”

Lillard is in Las Vegas with the U.S. Olympic team. He awoke to a report Friday from Truehoop.com, citing a person close to him, that he planned to request a trade in the coming days.

“No. 1, it’s not true,” Billups said, “and secondly I’d also say that I haven’t made any firm decision on what my future will be.”

Lillard maintained that he wanted to win a championship in Portland, where he has spent his entire career, but his belief in that possibility seems to be waning.

“I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers uniform but we all have to be making strides toward that,” Lillard said.

They were far from it this season, falling 4-2 in the first round to a Denver team that was playing without injured guard Jamal Murray. The Blazers then replaced Terry Stotts with first-time head coach Chauncey Billups.

Lillard said he is aware there have been teams that have changed coaches without changing up much of their personnel and found that was good enough.

“So I don’t disagree that maybe Chauncey can really change our team and make us a better team and get us going in that direction,” Lillard said. “But I think if you look at our team as it is going into next season, I don’t see how you say, ‘All right, this is championship team, you just need a new coach,’ when we lost in the first round to a team that was hurt. So that’s just my thoughts on it.”

Lillard planned to meet with Billups and general manager Neil Olshey in Las Vegas, but said the Blazers staff was planning to visit him during the training camp anyway, so nothing had changed.

WIZARDS: Washington is offering its coaching job to Wes Unseld Jr. and expect to reach an agreement with him, a person with knowledge of the details said.

A deal with the Denver Nuggets associate head coach will bring him back to the organization that his father, Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, led to an NBA championship.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no deal has been reached. The Wizards’ plans were first reported by ESPN, which said Unseld completed two days of interviews Friday.

He would replace Scott Brooks, who was fired after three playoff appearances in five seasons.

PACERS: Indiana hired Lloyd Pierce, Ronald Nored, Mike Weinar and Jenny Boucek as assistant coaches for new head coach Rick Carlisle.

Pierce was head coach of the Atlanta Hawks for the past two and a half seasons before he was fired in March. He is an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s team heading to Japan for the Olympics next week.

Nored, a former star at Butler in Indianapolis, spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach for the Charlotte Hornets.

NBA FINALS: The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks continue to make tweaks, hoping to gain an advantage in the NBA finals that’s locked at 2 wins each.

There have recently been reminders that another problem still lurking has the potential to alter the final round of these playoffs – COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise around the country and much of the world. Team USA basketball has already had problems while training in Las Vegas; Wizards guard Bradley Beal is out of the Olympics after being placed into health and safety protocols. The Yankees-Red Sox baseball game in New York on Thursday was postponed after multiple Yankees tested positive.

Bucks Coach Mike Budenholzer said the virus is on his mind as Saturday’s Game 5 looming.

“There’s a real push to stay safe, to stay healthy, to be vigilant,” Budenholzer said. “Both teams, we’re very, very close to the finish. We’re excited about finishing this strong.”
Suns point guard Chris Paul knows firsthand how COVID-19 can alter the playoffs trajectory. Paul missed the first two games of the Western Conference finals against the LA Clippers because he was in the league’s health and safety protocol.

“I pay attention to it just like everybody else,” Paul said. “Try to control what I can control. Stay in the moment with the Finals, but health is a huge concern not just for my family but for everybody.”

BUCKS FORWARDS GIANNIS Antetokounmpo said he got his first chance to watch his much-talked about block of Deandre Ayton’s alley-oop dunk attempt while reviewing film on Friday.

He allowed himself to enjoy it a little, saying it was a “great play.” But he’s also knows that enjoying it too much is not a good thing.

“I kind of try to focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility. That’s being humble,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s not setting an expectation. That’s going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level.”

PAUL IS TRYING to bounce back from a rough Game 4 when he finished with 10 points, seven assists and five costly turnovers, including a crucial one in the final minute that led to a 109-103 loss.

The 36-year-old point guard took the blame for the loss after Wednesday’s game but said he had moved on from the disappointment. He added that no one on the Suns thought this would be easy.

“End of the day, we’ve got to win the game,” Paul said. “Me turning the ball over is not giving us enough shots at the basket. I’ll figure it out.”

Coach Monty Williams was also confident the 11-time All-Star would be his old self on Saturday and called the tough Game 4 “a blip on the screen” of a terrific career.

“Other than having to deal with me, he’s good,” Williams said with a wry grin.

WILLIE GREEN HAS not officially been announced as the new head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. It was sometimes hard to tell during Friday’s practice for the Phoenix Suns.

Many of the Suns were openly happy for Green, who has been the top assistant for Monty Williams during their push to the finals. Green’s name has been linked to the Pelicans’ opening by multiple outlets.

“If all of this is official and he moves forward, I’m happy and I’m unbelievably sad about it because he’s just a huge part of my life,” Williams said. “He’s been a big, big part of our program.”

THE SUNS ANNOUNCED that they’ve agreed to a multi-year naming rights deal for Phoenix Suns Arena that will change the name to the Footprint Center. The deal also applies to the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and Spanish soccer club Real Mallorca.

Footprint is a material science company that works to reduce dependency on single- and short-term use plastics. The goal for the Footprint Center is to become carbon-neutral and be not rely on single-use plastics.


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