Damian Lillard was named an All-Star for a third time Tuesday, and he's gaining a tremendous amount of respect within the Portland Trail Blazers organization as the franchise player.
The electric point guard met with team owner Paul Allen last Thursday to gain an understanding of the organization's direction moving forward, league sources told ESPN.
Lillard and Allen's confidential meeting lasted for roughly an hour prior to Portland's clash with the Indiana Pacers last week, according to the sources. Lillard reiterated his commitment to the organization during the brainstorming session, and wanted to ensure the front office was equally as dedicated to winning a championship. In the weeks leading up to the chat, Allen speculated Lillard would request a trade, which according to the sources, did not happen.
Lillard quickly shot down any rumors he was unhappy with the organization, once the news had leaked of the forum with ownership.
"It's definitely been blown way out of proportion," Lillard told The Oregonian/OregonLive. "I met with Paul to figure out how we can improve."
Marc Stein of the New York Times recently reported that the Trail Blazers have engaged in trade talks with the Los Angeles Clippers for center DeAndre Jordan. It's unclear whether this was a recommendation from Lillard, but Portland will certainly be one of the teams looking to make a move prior to the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
Lillard's confirmation of his happiness with the Trail Blazers comes just two weeks after he shared some lofty goals for his future with the club.
"I want to be the best Blazer ever," Lillard previously told The Oregonian. "That's one of my ultimate goals. There's only a few names you throw out there that make you think, 'Blazers.' You know the names. Clyde Drexler. Bill Walton. Jerome Kersey. I feel like after my six years, I'm on that list. But I feel like there are things that I need to continue to do to outperform them individually. And I've got to win a championship. That's my goal."
Lillard, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, has led his team to the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. Portland (25-22) currently sits seventh in the Western Conference, thanks to the dynamic backcourt duo of C.J. McCollum and Lillard. If the playoffs started today, they'd have an incredibly tough opening series with James Harden and the Houston Rockets. The Blazers likely need a few more pieces in order to become true championship contenders.
One of the hurdles of potentially becoming an elite squad is a lack of payroll flexibility. Portland already has the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA (just over $122 million). Lillard, who is one of four players averaging 25 points, four rebounds and six assists this season, has four years remaining on his current contract that owes him $115 million. Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and McCollum are also locked up on lucrative long-term deals. The impending free agency of big man Jusuf Nurkic this summer also poses a problem for the Blazers moving forward.