PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When Blazers star Damian Lillard met with the media at their practice facility, the biggest emotion felt was relief.

Lillard opted to have surgery to deal with an abdominal injury he’s been dealing with for years, possibly as far back as 2015. His abs bothered him so much in practice it was hard for him to walk with a normal stride.

But Dame played past the pain for years and managed it as best he could. A doctor told him he had no idea how he’d been playing with the injury as long as he did for as bad as it was.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in the summer of 2021 when he seriously considered the surgery after talking with his teammate Jrue Holiday (who previously had the surgery.) Everytime Lillard gripped his abs in pain or got into a conversation about it with the Milwaukee Bucks star, Holiday told him to get the surgery.

So he did.

“I reached the point where my body couldn’t do what my mind wanted it to do,” he told KOIN 6 News. “At some point you gotta play chess, you know, make decisions that suit you for the long haul and not just right now. And that was the decision I made.”

As much as he misses competing Dame said he won’t rush his return to the hardcourt. He’s working with everyone from a physical therapist to a yoga instructor to ensure that when he comes back he’ll be fully healthy for the first time in years.