The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the most fun teams to watch this year, so it was an absolute pleasure to watch them destroy the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night. Unfortunately, it was also somewhat of a bummer, because the entire world just found out that one of the players in the NBA Playoffs is terrible at math.

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Damian Lillard has been a solid player for the Portland Trail Blazers for nine NBA seasons. The same cannot be said for the work of ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst, whose journalistic misconduct on Friday was downright disgusting.

Lillard remains at the center of the drama, thanks in part to him. But the hype surrounding his status is unnecessarily amplified at a time when he should be focusing on representing the United States at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Damian Lillard’s future is a source of rumour and speculation

Damian Lillard of the 2021 U.S. men’s basketball team rests after practice at UNLV as the team prepares for the Tokyo Olympics| Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After eight consecutive playoffs, the Trail Blazers made it to the Conference finals only once and were eliminated in the first round the next two seasons.

Lillard is an experienced point guard and the Blazers’ first choice, but he has always been the subject of criticism when a postseason victory goes awry. Realistically, no one sees him as a problem, even if his status in the offseason is a problem.

Lillard is embroiled in the controversy surrounding Portland’s decision to hire Chauncey Billups as their new head coach. From there, it was assumed that he wanted the Blazers to make more changes. That’s not a good way for him to begin a four-year, $176.2 million contract extension that would bring Lillard’s career earnings closer to $300 million.

The Blazers are considering selling a top scorer with 24.7 points per game and averaging 6.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds. As a result, there are new stories about his future almost daily, speculating about where he will play next NBA season. And this at a time when Lillard is focused on representing his country.

Lillard’s Instagram post of a recent WNBA game he attended makes things even more interesting. Who do I love? And how often? … Anything and everything, he wrote.

Damian Lillard is genuinely angry after ESPN’sreport

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Lillard was able to resolve questions about his aspirations for the 2021-22 NBA season with a statement that left no room for interpretation. He doesn’t need to do that, especially since there isn’t much to say about him in this story. Even though he wants to rescind his contract, Lillard understands that his team holds the cards.

This of course opens the door to people who are supposed to speak for him. That’s the tenor of Friday’s embarrassing events involving ESPN basketball reporter Brian Windhorst. On SportsCenter, Windhorst said Lillard is closer than ever to seeking a trade. He also said Lillard’s men have rattled the saber in negotiations with the Trail Blazers and other teams.

I don’t think he’s reached that threshold yet, but I think he’s closer than in the past, Windhorst said.

That contradicts what Lillard said Thursday in Las Vegas, where Team USA is preparing for the Olympics.

Anything I want to say, I say directly to Neil (Olshey, Portland general manager), and I’ll deal with it directly with my team, Lillard said. A lot of things are being said now and sometimes words are being put in my mouth, and I haven’t said anything. If you have something to say… I will say it and I will make my point.

That way, even if Lillard doesn’t say what he wants, he makes it clear that only he can speak for himself.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst made a curious statement about his debt

Earlier in SportsCenter, I was wrong about Damian Lillard. I mistakenly said that Lillard’s camp communicated with teams. I meant the teams are monitoring his situation in case they need to take action. My mistake.

– Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 9, 2021

Later Friday, Windhorst wrote on Twitter to retract his statement.

Earlier in SportsCenter , I was wrong about Damian Lillard. I mistakenly said that Lillard’s camp communicated with teams. My point is that teams are monitoring his situation in case they need to take action. My mistake.

This is a mistake that raises more questions than it answers. First of all: Did Windhorst talk to anyone who could be described with certainty as being from Lillard’s camp? If not, his information came from the teams, so Windhorst was not justified in reporting as authoritatively as he did.

If Windhorst did speak to someone close enough to Lillard to have legitimate knowledge, the correction could be interpreted as a lie to protect the source, player and/or team, which could be construed as interference in the affairs of an NBA star who is under contract until 2025.

Either way, it’s a mess. And while Windhorst used to have some sort of relationship with Lillard, that’s not the case anymore.

All statistics are from Basketball Reference.

COMPARED TO: Damian Lillard didn’t say two scary words that would have panicked Blazers fans

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