Damian Lillard on players recruiting each other in free agency: 'It's become huge'

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, shoots under pressure from Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, left, in the final seconds of overtime in of Game 4 of the NBA basketball playoffs Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Portland, Ore. The shot fell short and the Warriors won 119-117 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

It’s no secret that in today’s NBA landscape that superstar players have a lot of power.

Take for example this month’s free agency period. The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Anthony Davis after he requested to be dealt from the New Orleans Pelicans midway last season. Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant all elected to head to the Brooklyn Nets together, and late last night Kawhi Leonard signed with the L.A. Clippers and the team also traded for Paul George, a player Leonard wanted to team up with.

Portland Trail Blazers’ star Damian Lillard has taken note of the open recruiting that exists between star players and how it’s given players more power than ever.

"It's become huge," Lillard told ESPN. "Because sometimes the coaches and the front offices, they don't have as much power as the players. The players are so friendly now. I think in the past it was like [Michael] Jordan probably didn't go out searching and trying to get guys to come join him. It was like they was competing against each other.”

The conversations that take place help open the door for players to create the teams they want and, in turn, become more powerful than pitch meetings.

"Now it's, 'Well, they got three stars on their team, so I know this guy and that guy, I'm going to try to get them to come to my team.' So I think you see [recruiting] a lot more now where it's just players recruiting players is more powerful than the pitch meeting with the team. That's just what it is now, so it's a huge part of the game now."

Lillard had the opportunity to be a recruiter or be recruited, but instead chose to lock up his longterm future with the Trail Blazers. He signed a four-year $196 million supermax extension which begins in 2021.

"I think we've built something special," Lillard said. "It's been built genuine and in an environment that we've created. It's something that I've been a part of and something that I want to continue to be a part of.”

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