Damian Lillard misses the fans and can’t wait to have them back

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Damian Lillard misses the fans and can’t wait to have them back originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

There are many moments in Rip City that will go down in history. 

Winning the 1977 NBA Championship; Damian Lillard’s 0.9 shot against the Houston Rockets; Lillard’s game-winner against OKC; Zach Collins’ block out of nowhere against the Golden State Warriors…

All these standout moments in Trail Blazers history are even better with 19,980 screaming fans in the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case so far this year and it’s a real bummer.

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On a night like tonight against the visiting New York Knicks where Lillard literally didn’t miss a shot until the third quarter, Enes Kanter comes up clutch on the defensive end and Anfernee Simons comes off the bench and drops 16 points, it all would have been that much sweeter to hear the roars from Rip City. 

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s restart in the Orlando, Florida bubble is a continued reality this 2020-2021 NBA season. No fans, plugged in minimal crowd noise, cardboard cutouts… it just isn’t the same.

And the players feel it too.

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Following Portland’s 116-113 win over the Knicks on Sunday, Lillard spoke on the feeling of playing in front of no fans this season:

“Honestly, I’m not a fan of it. I think when we played in the bubble - which I don’t want to go back to - the environment was setup for to feel different. It was smaller venues, they had screens up, we had virtual fans, you had team personnel and a bunch of media in the building so, you felt some energy inside the building and it didn’t feel like we was in big 20,000-25,000 arenas. Now it just feels empty and dry almost like a scrimmage type of vibe until you fully get into the action. 

I miss the fans. I can’t wait until we have fans back. That’s when you going to get the best basketball we’ve had in a long time because of the energy that’s going to be pumped back into the building and back into the games.

Damian Lillard

It’s a two-way street. The players make plays that pump the fans up which then pumps the players up and on and on and on. A never-ending circle, especially here in Rip City.

“The excitement, the momentum, like the energy that fans bring into a game is just unbelievable,” continued Lillard. “I’ve always known that, but having to play these games without fans and in empty arenas, I’ve never felt it more than I do now. And I’m sure all the other players feel the same way.”

This season, the Blazers currently hold a 9-6 record (5-4 at home). Can’t help but think a few of those home losses would have had different outcomes with the Rip City energy that Lillard talks about.

We miss that energy too and hopefully all will return to normal in due time.

Next up: The Trail Blazers wrap-up what was slated to be a seven-game homestand Monday when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town. Portland and OKC will tip-off at 7:00p.m. PST on NBCSNW.