Jan 30, 2024 - Sports

Dame Time 2.0 for Lillard at the Moda Center

Damian Lillard of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks holding a basketball in his right hand.

Damian Lillard of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during the game against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 22 at Little Caesars Arena. Photo: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Image

Beloved former Trail Blazer Damian Lillard returns to Moda Center Wednesday for the first time in 10 months, this time as a Buck.

Why it matters: Seeing Lillard leave the Trail Blazers after 11 years of service was bad enough. Seeing him come back with a winning team might break some Blazers fans' hearts.

State of play: Lillard joined the Milwaukee Bucks in October.

  • Since going there he has played 42 games and averaged 25.3 points a game.
  • The Blazers are second from last in the Western Conference, with 14 wins and 33 losses. It's been a bad season so far.
  • Placed second in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks (32 wins, 15 losses) fired their coach Adrian Griffin last week in his first season.

New coach Doc Rivers said Saturday why he jumped at the chance to coach the Bucks: "Giannis (Antetokounmpo), Dame. Really, that's the answer."

  • The Blazers front office is calling it the biggest game of the year and on Sunday released some more seats in the nosebleeds starting at $64.
  • Veteran Portland sportswriter Kerry Eggers told Axios, "It's going to be an event, a happening. Dame will be celebrated, and he will handle the night with aplomb and dignity."

Portlanders have happy memories of Lillard. On Feb. 26, 2023, he scored 71 points against the Houston Rockets at Moda Center.

He clocked his first buzzer-beater for the Bucks two weeks ago, against the Sacramento Kings.

Between the lines: In Portland, Dame had a life outside of basketball.

What they're saying: "Dame is a West Coast legend, you're gonna get a big reception for Dame being back," fan Sam Spurling told Axios at the Independent Sports Bar and Grill on SW Broadway.

  • He said nobody holds Lillard's decision to leave against him: "Everyone in this city has a ton of love for Dame, everyone's rooting for his success. I guarantee you."
  • "It wasn't like he was just here for the money. This is home."
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