They all addressed their respective first-round losses, and what each team needed to improve its roster. Davis explained his transition to Southern California. Lillard expressed his hesitancy to join any iteration of a super-team. “I was just saying, I don’t know if this is the route I wanted to go,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And that was pretty much how the conversation went.” The meeting lasted for an hour and a half. Lillard promised to keep them posted on what he decided to do, but the Lakers were already privately evaluating their options on potentially landing Lillard, sources said.
The day before Lillard was to shoot his music video, he made a surprise appearance at a WNBA game, featuring the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces. Upon arriving, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was already sitting courtside. On the way to his seat, James stood up to acknowledge his “Space Jam: A New Legacy” cast member. The two shook hands and exchanged a laugh. Later that evening, James sent Lillard an invitation to his mansion in Brentwood. “He was like, ‘Pull up. Let’s have lunch to talk shop,’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “So I pulled up.”
Lillard’s future in Portland was in the balance at this point. He bled Rip City, but he was weighing all of his options. Through the years, James hasn’t been shy — publicly and privately — in relaying how thrilling it would be to share the same jersey as the Oakland native. The 6-foot-3 guard caught an Uber from his hotel to James’ house. After security opened the gate for the vehicle to enter the property, Lillard was met at the door by a house staffer who escorted him through the living room and into the elevator. The destination was the rooftop.
When the elevator reached the top floor, James and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis were sitting on one side of a table waiting for Lillard to join them on the other side. Before they fully dove into lunch of an Italian salad followed by pasta and a fine bottle of rosé wine, James kicked off the conversation, detailing his experience living in Los Angeles. Lillard did not categorize the meeting as a platform for a recruiting presentation, but rather an information-gathering forum among respected peers. “’Bron asked what I was thinking with my situation, and I told him what I’m telling you: that I just want to be in a position to win it all,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “He painted the picture to me that if I were to leave, the situation could look like this. He didn’t tell me to come to L.A., and he didn’t say anything to me that I didn’t already know other than what it could look like. I told him, ‘I know if I were to play with y’all, I know it would work out because of my skill set,’ and who I am and who they are.”
The Lakers structured their salary cap to make sure they would have space next summer for a maximum-salaried player—whether he comes via free agency or trade. League sources say that when James became convinced Irving couldn't be persuaded to stay in Cleveland, he suggested to the Cavs front office that it deal Irving to the Blazers for All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. The Cavs never called the Blazers, but James' interest has led to speculation about the Lakers trading for Lillard.
James wants to play with Lillard, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, who recently reported that has been the case "since before LeBron even signed with the Lakers." ESPN's Zach Lowe also noted that James has a healthy respect for Lillard's game. (For context below, Lowe made a "crazy prediction" the Trail Blazers could fall short of expectations this season, leading to the departure of a key member of the franchise.) "The most enticing mega-trade on the board not involving Anthony Davis: Lillard to the Lakers for a package centered around Lonzo Ball. Lillard is a perfect fit next to LeBron, and LeBron respects Lillard's game, per sources familiar with the matter. The Lakers could absorb Lillard into cap space this summer without sending out giant matching salaries — salaries they don't have on the books."
With all this being said, yet another star could be staring at change, and this time it could help form an L.A. superteam. Here’s a quote by Kevin O’Connor, from The Ringer podcast: LeBron wants to play with Damian Lillard. He’s one of the guys he’d like to play with and that’s chatter around the league. It has been since before LeBron signed with the Lakers, it was one of the many indicators that he was heading there.
The most enticing mega-trade on the board not involving Anthony Davis: Lillard to the Lakers for a package centered around Lonzo Ball. Lillard is a perfect fit next to LeBron, and LeBron respects Lillard's game, per sources familiar with the matter. The Lakers could absorb Lillard into cap space this summer without sending out giant matching salaries -- salaries they don't have on the books.
The three-time All-Star point guard, speaking publicly for the first time this summer, squashed rumors of his unhappiness and shot down reports he's angling to leave Rip City for the Los Angeles Lakers or any other franchise. "I'm not unhappy," Lillard said Sunday. "I love where I live. I love the organization. I love our coaching staff. I love where I am."
May 15, 2022 | 11:05 pm EDT Update
Gerald Bourguet: Chris Paul on this possibly being his best shot at a title: “They said that last year. They probably said it back in ’08. Every time you lose, they’re gonna say it’s your best chance…but we’ll be back next year. I ain’t retiring tomorrow, thank God.”
Marc J. Spears: Suns point guard Chris Paul limped out of the arena with a very slow walk. @andscape learned that Paul had a left quad injury. When asked about his quad injury, Paul declined comment.
Gerald Bourguet: “His contract situation is between him and the front office. I care about him as a brother. Just making sure his mental is right…whatever happens, happens. Kind of hard to look so far in the future.” – Devin Booker on Deandre Ayton’s contract situation
“Giannis is the best player in the world. You can see why a lot of people say that,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “He’s just relentless in his approach. He is aggressive all the time. He’s not going to be denied. And that was tough for us in the series.” Antetokounmpo finished the semifinals with back-to-back 20-point, 20-rebound games. He had 44 points and 20 rebounds in Game 6, and 25 points and 20 rebounds with 9 assists in Game 7. And they were both losses. Antetokounmpo joined Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to lose consecutive postseason games with a 20-20, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Antetokounmpo started off hot on Sunday, going 6-for-10 in the first half for 17 points before he appeared to get fatigued while struggling down the stretch. He shot just 4 of 16 in the second half with 8 points as the Celtics pulled away after halftime. “Legs heavy. Body heavy. Mind heavy. Everything was heavy,” Antetokounmpo said with a smile after the game. “I was just trying to be aggressive. At the end of the day, it’s Game 7 and I’m not going to hold the ball and not look at the rim, I’d rather miss a bunch of shots and keep playing and keep coming and keep being aggressive. Keep looking for my teammates and keep making the right plays then go in passive mode. I can live with that.”