Posts Tagged ‘Loyalty’

Damian Lillard has already built up a pretty impressive NBA resume through six seasons: A Rookie of the Year award, three All-Star berths, and two All-NBA selections, with a third almost certainly coming to him this year. He’s led the Portland Trail Blazers to the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

But Lillard’s Blazers teams have also had pretty firm ceilings in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, topping out in the second round. With the mighty Houston Rockets and defending champion Golden State Warriors looming, that looks like their likely cap again this spring.

Lillard, though, isn’t planning an exit strategy to a championship contender. Even in today’s rings-obsessed NBA culture, the 27-year-old point guard is more concerned with making his mark in Portland, and continuing to try and push the Blazers over the hump, than he is with hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.

“I would like to win a championship as bad as anybody, but because of who I am, I’d get a lot more satisfaction if I got it the hard way,” Lillard told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins.

“If I can’t figure it out here and I never win one, I can live with the effort I put into it. I can live with it maybe not happening for me. I’m going to roll with this team regardless of what people may feel about our chances. I’m going to live and die with this.”

The Blazers are currently 48-30, and virtually assured of opening the playoffs at home for the first time since 2009. Lillard is under contract with the team through the 2020-21 season.

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The Milwaukee Bucks will be able to keep their superstar … on one condition.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he’ll stay put as long as the team continues moving in the right direction.

“As long as Milwaukee does the right moves and we’re a championship (contending) team, I’m not going nowhere,” he told ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

“This is my home. All I know is loyalty and this is an organization that (has preached that) since day one and hopefully I can help them bring joy to the fans and bring joy to the city in the future with a championship.”

The 23-year-old is averaging 27.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists – all team highs – this season for the Bucks, who currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference and are just a game back of having home-court advantage.

It’s no surprise, then, that other clubs might be interested in his services. Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson recently received a $50,000 tampering fine for saying Antetokounmpo is going to put Milwaukee on the map and bring the city a championship one day. Last summer, it was speculated the Greek Freak could be lured to another organization, but he shot down the rumor by tweeting lyrics from a Kendrick Lamar song.

Milwaukee has the two-time All-Star contractually locked up through 2020-21.

The Colorado Avalanche have turned things around in a hurry.

Coming off an historically awful 2016-17, the Avs have reeled off nine wins in a row, currently sit in a Western Conference wild-card playoff spot, and are withing striking distance of third place in the ultra-competitive Central Division.

Following that ninth consecutive victory Saturday over the New York Rangers, defenseman Erik Johnson spoke about the commitment made by the team’s core players to avoid a repeat performance of last year.

“The way things went last year, I think the easy thing to say would have been: ‘It’s not working here, let’s go somewhere else, let’s jump ship,'” Johnson said Saturday, per Rick Sadowski of NHL.com. “The character guys and core guys in this room said we want to figure things out here in Colorado, make it work.”

Earlier this season, Colorado shook up the roster by coming through on a trade request filed last year by Matt Duchene, one made because he was tired of losing.

“I wanted to play playoff hockey,” Duchene explained at the time of the trade, per Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia. “I’ve got eight playoff games to my name right now and that’s not where I want to be at this point of my career.”

Heading into Saturday’s game against Toronto, Duchene’s Ottawa Senators sat second to last in the Eastern Conference, all but out of the playoff picture.

The Ottawa Senators captain is making his stance loud and clear.

Though the Senators have essentially hit rock bottom, having won just once in their last 12 games, Erik Karlsson remains adamant that winning in Canada’s capital is his top priority.

“It’s all about winning,” Karlsson told Sportsnet’s Arash Madani. “I want to be on a – I’ve been here for nine seasons. I’ve invested my entire career into this organization. They’ve given me everything that I feel like I need to succeed. I think we’re moving in the right direction. This is the place I want to win. I want to win in Ottawa.”

Karlsson is set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2018-19 season, and has already stated that he isn’t interested in taking any sort of hometown discount to stay with the Senators.

Given Karlsson’s status as one of the game’s best players, his current $6.5-million cap hit could potentially come close to doubling if he were to test the market.

That would make it difficult for the small-market Senators to lock him up long term, considering that Mark Stone is set for a significant pay increase this offseason, and Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf have a combined annual cap hit of $14.25 million beyond 2019.

Ottawa currently trails the Boston Bruins by seven points for third place in the Atlantic Division.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t regret much, but if he could turn back the hands of time, he would have taken the early train out of Sacramento and left the Kings a lot sooner than he did.

“My biggest regret is … why didn’t I leave when I had the chance?,” said Cousins to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears concerning his tenure with the organization.

“I had the chance, but I fought it. I wanted to give it a chance. My representatives they told me I shouldn’t stay. You know, being … guess you can say stubborn and ‘loyal,’ I wanted to make things work.”

Cousins’ relationship with George Karl was toxic, with the former head coach approaching management in an attempt to remove the All-Star big man from the equation via a trade. Aware of Karl’s intentions, Cousins took to social media with his now infamous snake in the grass tweet.

When asked by Spears how he remembers his rift with his ex-coach, Cousins wished he took the opportunity that was presented to him to leave Sacramento, thus preventing all of the drama with Karl.

“I should have left when I had the chance, and avoided it all, because they told me what would happen,” Cousins responded.

Prior to last season’s trade deadline, the Kings finally pulled the trigger and shipped Cousins off to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package that included Buddy Hield. Cousins felt betrayed by the move, as general manager Vlade Divac had told him to his face that he wouldn’t be dealt, even going as far as asking him about personnel decisions in the days prior.

“All last year, I felt like that’s all it was about. I got traded, and ‘he hates Sacramento,’ and that kind of fed into it. At the end of the day, it’s a business,” Cousins added. “I kind of blame myself for even putting myself at that point. You knew coming in this was a business. How are you gonna be loyal to someone that ain’t loyal to any player that’s ever played this game? I was a fool.”

He inked a four-year, $62-million extension back in 2013 (Karl arrived in 2014-15), and had plans to remain with the Kings on a new extension worth over $200 million last summer had he still been with the team.

Cousins returns to Sacramento for the first time since joining the Pelicans on Thursday night.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo may have “loyalty inside his DNA,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the 22-year-old phenom will remain in Milwaukee for the entirety of his career.

The Bucks forward was non-committal when asked about his future in Milwaukee, saying that many players have expressed their desire to stay in a particular city before bolting for greener pastures.

“A lot of people say they’re going to stay on a team and decide to move to a different team,” Giannis said at a recent event in Manila, Philippines. “But you guys got to remember: A guy might want to stay on a team, but the team doesn’t do the right things and the right moves for the player to become great.”

The 2017 All-Star added that Kevin Durant gave every indication that he planned to stay with the Thunder, but ultimately left Oklahoma City after the team failed to win a title.

“KD, the reason he wanted to stay in OKC was to win, right? So, they didn’t win the championship,” Giannis said. “That’s why he decided to leave. So do not hate only the player, because sometimes it’s not up to the player.”

While Giannis’ comments may be a little unsettling for Bucks fans, the 6-foot-11 forward still has four years remaining on his contract, and he won’t become an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2021.

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The euphoria of delivering the lone taste of success in a near quarter-century for a storied fan base must feel like it was ages ago.

Just nine months ago, John Tavareselectrifying wraparound game-winner in Game 6 of the New York Islanders‘ first-round series versus the Florida Panthers felt like the turning point for a franchise that hadn’t won a playoff series in 23 years.

It hasn’t been, though, as the Islanders rank dead last in the Eastern Conference 38 games into their season, owners of a 15-15-8 record.

Yet, as he’s done in the past, captain Tavares affirmed his commitment to the club that drafted him first overall in 2009, even though a lucrative free-agent deal could be waiting for him down the road.

“I think for myself, I’ve always shown and talked about my commitment here,” Tavares told Steven Marcus of Newsday. “Wanting to have success here and keep building on some of the good things we’ve done. Obviously, this (low) point’s been disappointing.”

Tavares is an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season, and to his standards, is underperforming this season with a team-leading 27 points.

“For myself, I know that I have not been to the level that I expect of myself and the standard that I want to be at,” Tavares said. “(I) keep trying to improve and get better. I need to be counted on more, to be more of a difference-maker.”

The Islanders lost a wealth of talent to free agency last offseason, and are enduring dwindling attendance numbers along with substandard ice conditions at the Barclay’s Center.

None of that seems to be bothering Tavares.

“I think I’ve stated enough how much I enjoy being here,” he said.