The Portland TrailBlazers were swept quickly from the NBA Playoffs, but make the playoffs they did. And with that comes a bonus for each player.
Shortly after Golden State punted Portland into summer vacation, Blazers point guard Damian Lillard gathered his teammates with one mission: to pool their collective playoff bonuses -- totaling just south of a quarter million dollars for the entire group -- and give them to team employees.
As captain for the past two seasons, Lillard has made it clear to his teammates that their playoff checks should be donated to the Blazers’ support staff, which consists of everybody from massage therapists to the trainers at the practice facility.
With some Blazers teams, the locker room leadership was not always as generous. Three seasons ago, when veteran Chris Kaman joined the team, he became appalled that the Blazers were keeping their playoff checks. Kaman, who became close with Lillard, told him if he ever led a team he should insist on getting the guys to donate to underscore the importance of unity and having one’s back.
Once again this season, with Lillard going from player to player to assure they followed through, the team voted to give up their full shares. The money was divided among 25 support staff, with some getting more than others depending on their role.
“We divide our playoff shares to give to the people who we work so closely with because they spend as much time away from their families as we do, and they are just about as invested as we are,’’ Lillard said after the season. “They also do as much as possible to make our lives easier, even if it makes theirs more difficult – all while making far less. So it’s a further way of showing appreciation beyond a thank your or a handshake.’’
Plenty of head coaches make a habit of sliding a couple Benjamins to graduate assistants and the like over the years but, in the days of Power 5 head coaches making $3 million or more and position coaches pulling in more than $250,000, pooling the group's bowl bonuses to the team's junior staff members would go a long, long way inside the building.