Yet there still remain internal concerns about Lillard’s future in Portland. The last month of investigations and the team’s poor record—now 11-14 following Monday’s night’s loss to the Clippers—combined with mixed feelings about Billups’ leadership strategy, all while Lillard has struggled with a serious abdominal injury, has left an unsettled feeling among Blazers personnel despite Lillard’s unwavering public commitment to the organization. A lot of work lies ahead.
Kyle Neubeck: Stephen A. Smith just said on NBA Countdown that New York is the one place Dame Lillard would angle for if he eventually wanted/asked out. Adds, “There are people in his camp who would like him to give Philadelphia stronger consideration.”
Damian Lillard: I've done so much in my career that I know that I have a great body of work. I will feel that way with or without a championship ring, but the reason I play is for a championship ring. So, I don't believe in the ring or bust thing, I'm not a fan of that, and that's why I don't play my career to that narrative. I'm not making every decision, like 'Oh I should do this or I should do that to get a ring', because knowing myself and knowing I feel in my heart and the way that I operate, I don't think it would be as fulfilling or as great of a feeling as I imagine it'd being if I felt like I got beside myself or stepped outside of myself to try to accomplish that.
Damian Lillard: I've had players around the league tell me, like, 'Man, you should go here or you should leave,' because they want it for me. Sometimes you have people around the league that you're cool with it that have experienced it or have not and see you as somebody that can do something different and have an opportunity to win it so they want that for you. So, they make suggestions and things like that but I think that at the end of the day they respect my stance. It's not in disrespect to anybody else who made a different decision, it's just in respect for me standing in what I believe and being able to deal with whatever the consequences are.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks thinks the Blazers should explore trading Lillard (video link). He believes Lillard may have peaked as a player, pointing to his age (31), huge contract, and the high number of minutes he’s played over the years. Marks thinks it could be worth it to try and extract maximum value for Lillard before it’s too late. However, he acknowledges that the situation will be very tricky for whoever takes over the front office, as Lillard is one of the best players in franchise history.
Some have even suggested that Olshey would have been willing to trade Lillard before moving McCollum, though that speculation will now remain a thought experiment permanently.
Kevin O'Connor: (Damian Lillard) goes from making these vague comments about, "Yeah, I don't know how long I'll be here" like weeks before the season to suddenly "I'm all in." There are front office executives around the league who think this is a strategic choice by the Blazers, Dame's group and all that in order to create leverage for the organization because right now around the league teams just want Dame. They don't they don't want CJ McCollum, they don't want Jusuf Nurkic. They're like, "We're gonna wait for Dame to demand a trade."
While Lillard waited for his Uber, James showed him the rest of the house and around the backyard. The Uber showed up after 20 or so minutes and whisked Lillard away. This much was clear: There was no way Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey would ever trade Lillard to the Lakers. Though joining the Lakers wasn’t at the top of his list, that Lillard took the meeting with James showed how much he respected the four-time NBA champion and how much he was receptive to the idea of trying something new.
“The whole time I knew I was a Trail Blazer, but obviously coming off that playoff loss, I was like, ‘We got to do something to show we’re actually trying to win it,’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports of his conversation with management. “There are so many teams in the league where some want to tank; some teams just want to be a playoff team and see if they can make things interesting; and then there are a few teams with the mindset of winning a championship.
“So for me, I was in that position where I was wondering if we’re actually trying to win a championship. I want to be a part of something where winning a title is everybody’s mission. I was asking my team, ‘Is that what we’re really trying to do? What are we doing to show that’s what we really want?’ Those were my questions, and I presented them that way. Like, ‘What are we doing? How are we honestly saying we want to win it all? What steps are we taking?’ I just had a decision to make.”
Lillard recalls paying attention to The Greek Freak’s every move when the confetti began pouring from the rafters. It helped reconfirm his initial desire. “Usually when people win championships and start getting all emotional, I’m always wondering if they’re really moved like that,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “Is that real emotions? Does he really feel like that? Because I’ve been in big moments and people would expect me to be emotional and I’m not. So I question the authenticity of how emotional they are in some situations.
“But when I watched Giannis, he was really looking around like, ‘Damn, what if I really left Milwaukee? This was worth it.’ So for me, I put myself in his shoes. Sometimes it seems like this is impossible and it’s never going to happen, and I’m sure he was there before, too. “If I was to get that championship for Portland, I would cry, bruh. Bruh, on the spot. I would really cry, bro. I want to win a championship here. And because of how strongly I feel about that, I don’t know how rewarding it would feel for me at this point if I won somewhere else. Winning it here would be a lifetime achievement for me.”
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.”
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.
"Honestly, it doesn't shift my focus either way," Lillard said. "During starting lineups, they were booing everybody and then they cheered when I came through. I thought that was funny. That comes with professional sports. It's fun, it's a public thing, so I'm not uptight about it or acting like I don't recognize it. "I know what it is and I know what it's about. But I'm a Trail Blazer. I appreciate the love. I appreciate the respect that they showed and the desire or whatever but I'm 10 toes in Rip City, and I've said that time and time again and tonight I laughed about it during starting lineups but that was that."
Billups admitted he heard them, too. "I mean, I wasn't surprised at all," Billups said. "When they were saying, 'We want Lillard,' I was saying, 'We do, too.' "I mean, I understand and I get it. Philly's got a great fan base, they pull no punches. I've always appreciated that about this city."
Justin Grasso: “We Want Lillard” chants breaking out at the Wells Fargo Center #Sixers #Blazers
Justin Grasso: The “We Want Lillard” chants getting loud #Sixers #Blazers pic.twitter.com/Z0wnZt2RFj
He hinted as much in a recent appearance on “Bars On I-95, in which he rapped his way to share his thoughts on joining a super team. He gave a special shoutout to Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, who both defeated superteams and won the title despite not having the same star-studded squad. Here’s how his freestyle went, via Reddit: “Dame Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, trill… Me not wanting to join a super team might end up being my Achilles’ heel… Hector, I’m on my shield… Trying to get next to Freak and Dirk on that lonely hill… Now my goal’s revealed so fuck you, the reporters thinking my homies squealed…”
Lillard also became empowered under first-year coach Chauncey Billups, a former NBA player and LA Clippers assistant coach that replaced Terry Stotts after his nine seasons at the helm. “It was never out of hate or that we don’t like each other,” Lillard told NBA.com. “It was just, ‘This is how much I want to win it.’ So, once it was time to come back and I had a conversation with Chauncey and had a conversation with Neil, I’m not going to come back halfhearted. I’m going to come back and be all in.”
On the surface, Damian Lillard’s words captured preseason platitudes about the Portland Trail Blazers and their chances to win an NBA championship this season. “I’m optimistic. I’m a believer,” Lillard said. “And I love this organization.”
Malika Andrews: A snippet of our interview with Damian Lillard on NBA Today: “I just wanted it to be clear. It’s not one of those situations where I’m waiting for some adversity to hit… The last thing I’m thinking about is waiting for it to get tough and then bailing out on (Chauncey Billups).”
Lillard told The Athletic that a series of conversations with Billups over the summer helped center his thoughts back to Portland and what could happen if he stayed. Those conversations — Billups said it was five or six, some of them in person, some on the phone — dealt with basketball philosophy, strategies and concepts. But they also involved topics that penetrated to Lillard’s core. They talked about family, life after basketball, and the qualities found in a winner.
Lillard left the conversations inspired, encouraged and enamored. What he saw in his new coach was what he saw in himself. “I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”
As much as Lillard has recently tried to backtrack from his tumultuous summer by saying other people were putting words into his mouth, he acknowledged Friday that was indeed contemplating leaving Portland, even if he never publicly said it. “Yeah, I was upset,” Lillard said. “We lost to a team (Denver) I thought we should beat. I wanted us to show we really want to win. But I never said, ‘Oh, I’m leaving.’ I said, ‘If that’s what it comes to — if this is not what our real focus is — then maybe I will be forced to say all right, it’s not going to work.’ “But I never said I was leaving. And I never said this is not where I want to be. I never said that.”
Before their conversations, Billups said he was aware of Lillard’s unhappiness with the end of the Blazers’ season, and that his superstar might have been entertaining thoughts of asking out of Portland. But he said he never approached their talks as if he was trying to convince Lillard to stay. “I’ve never told Dame, or asked him, to stay. Nothing. I’ve never done that,” Billups said. “I felt like the biggest thing I wanted to do was share the things that were important to me. This is what I am. This is what I’m about. “Then, it’s on him to decide: Is it worth it? Or should I punt?”
Sean Highkin: Damian Lillard on speculation picking up if the team starts slow: “I’ll answer that the same way I answered it on media day. I’m not leaving Portland. … It’s an easy thing and a popular thing to say but it’s not gonna happen.” pic.twitter.com/zJJbSVuX8j
The organization probably feels like it’s gone well so you have two different sides to this and I think rival teams still believe he will be moved, it’s just a matter of time and one player that Philadelphia has monitored throughout the last few months and I think it will continue and the ball will continue to be rolled is Damian Lillard with Portland. I think there’s going to be a light going into this upcoming NBA season on the future of Damian Lillard and if Portland gets off to a rough start, like, I’ll tell you guys this if they’re not improved under Chauncey Billups this year, they risk losing Damian Lillard long term.
Philadelphia's loftier sights remain set on Lillard and Bradley Beal possibly growing dissatisfied in Portland and Washington, respectively, sources said. A far larger pool of players also become trade-eligible on December 15, then incorporating most of the newly-signed players from this past offseason. It seems the chances of any Simmons trade, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, will grow significantly larger in late December than anytime soon, barring any change in a rival team's circumstances.
League sources say that Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, San Antonio and Toronto (in alphabetical order) have been the most determined suitors for Simmons since last season ended. Morey doesn't appear to possess anywhere near the leverage in trade talks to demand the level of star he hopes will ultimately headline what the Sixers get in return for Simmons — namely Portland's Damian Lillard — but from the start he's been in a far stronger position than Simmons.
Indiana has been a legitimate suitor for Simmons, league sources say, and really should have been cited more frequently by yours truly along with the other teams (Minnesota, Toronto, San Antonio and Cleveland) that have consistently registered interest in the unhappy Sixer. Indications persist, though, that Philadelphia has been unmoved by the Pacers’ ability to offer Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert as the headliners of a trade package. No matter how unrealistic it sounds, Portland’s Damian Lillard remains the type of starry target Morey seeks.
Sam Amick: As our esteemed Blazers beat writer, Jason Quick, wrote recently, Lillard is focused on “going out on his shield” and trying yet again to take the Blazers to that elusive next level. His stance could certainly change if the Blazers get off to a bad start, but sources say Lillard wants to see how this early season goes while giving first-year coach Chauncey Billups a genuine shot at success along the way. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think Kyrie is going anywhere anytime soon. Especially because of the personal dynamics that are in play in Brooklyn.
Sam Amick: But as you both know, and has been said and written about plenty of times, the Lillard-for-Simmons swap with Portland that is widely seen as Morey’s dream scenario just isn’t realistic. Not yet, anyway. “You’re waiting on a prayer,” the source said of the Lillard scenario.
However, if Lillard contemplates a change of scenery, head coach Chauncey Billups would be the last person begging for him to stay. “I came here to coach you, but it’s your career, it’s your life and it’s your family.” Billups said on Sirius XM NBA Radio. “I’ve been there before, and I’m not going to be the guy preaching ‘Stay here, go there, do this.'” “I got a job to do, I want to do it with you, obviously. But if at some point you deem ‘Hey, another place is another place for me,’ that’s not going to be an indictment on myself. That’s going to be you making a decision for you and your family.”
SiriusXM NBA Radio: Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups reveals his message to Damian Lillard. Hear the Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview Show featuring Chauncey Billups and more tonight at 9pET on NBA Radio! @trailblazers | @1MrBigShot | @NBA | #NBA75
In the two months that followed their first-round playoff flop against Phoenix, when Davis’ groin injury left them pulling up lame, the Lakers explored the prospect of trading for such stars as Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook. The process unfolded well beyond the team’s front office’s search, with James setting up a war room of his own at his Brentwood estate for some in-person player meetings while leading remote communications in other conversations.
The group focused first on Lillard and Beal, but with no viable path to trading for either of them, turned their attention to more realistic targets: Westbrook, DeRozan, Hield and Kyle Lowry, who would eventually pursue a deal with the Miami Heat instead.
There are many who believed then and continue to insist now that Damian Lillard was about ready to ask out; a source with knowledge of the situation believes Lillard is held back by both his loyalty to Portland and an unwillingness to go back on things he's already said about sticking things out. He ultimately decided to give this another go, and Lillard has been provided roster upgrades and had a big voice in the coaching search. He may still ask out down the road, but only time will tell how long this honeymoon lasts.
Damian Lillard: Back for more… #RipCity is my city
The 76ers were widely believed to be holding out for a chance to acquire Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers, but Lillard recently said he isn’t leaving Portland, “not right now at least.” As for Sacramento, sources have suggested the 76ers would only be willing to consider an offer that includes De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton. The Kings are unlikely to part with either player, but they can offer Buddy Hield, a prolific 3-point shooter who would space the floor for Joel Embiid; Marvin Bagley III, a former No. 2 pick who has yet to reach his potential; and other assets, including multiple first-round draft picks.
The belief around the league is the Sixers have been holding out for six-time All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard to request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. But Lillard said, “I’m not leaving [Portland] — not right now at least” on Wednesday during an Instagram Live stream.
Philadelphia has its eyes set on Portland All-NBA guard Damian Lillard, sources say, but the Trail Blazers have fully focused on continuing to build around Lillard. As of now, Lillard is continuing to evaluate the Trail Blazers’ present and future and is slated to begin training camp with the organization. In some ways, the 76ers are stuck between deciding whether to make a move now with Simmons — or waiting until a star like Lillard shakes free.
Scotto: When you talk to any rival executive, agents around the league, etc. the bottom line of the Blazers is Damian Lillard’s prime is on the clock. It’s like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny… Neil Olshey is going all-in on Chauncey Billups. This is his guy. They have a relationship dating back to their LA Clippers days together. He’s fond of Chauncey as a leader and thinks he’s the right guy for the job. Ultimately, he’s either going to sink or swim with that hire… CJ McCollum needs to become an All-Star for the first time in his career. He’s been knocking on the door. If they’re going to be successful, he’s got to average 23-25 points per game… Jusuf Nurkic needs to come back and dominate. There was a time where Nurkic was thought to be the third guy. He’s going to need to be that for them now.
Lillard opened up about the trade rumors and explained why he will not play for the Lakers anytime soon. “He said ‘I would bet anybody that when the season starts, Dame’s going to be playing for the Lakers.’ And the Lakers just traded for Russell Westbrook, so I’m not going to play for the Lakers. We play the same position, so [I was] like bet a million,” Lillard told Complex’s Pierce Simpson.
The question on everyone’s mind: Is Lillard going to ask out and leave PDX? So someone asked him when Lillard was on Instagram Live Tuesday night, and this was his response: “I’m not leaving PDX, not right now at least.”
Landon Buford: Damian Lillard on leaving PDX: "I'm not leaving PDX not right now at least," Says Lillard.
Sean Highkin: CJ McCollum on @Adrian Wojnarowski pod on Dame: "I don't want to speak for him, but having a close relationship with him ... I have a pretty good sense of where he's at. His goal is to win a championship. But ... he's all-in. At this stage, I can say he's all-in. He just wants to win."
Lillard goes by the name Dame D.O.L.L.A whenever he raps. This song will surely be a certified banger as the Blazers’ star dropped some solid bars. Dame could have dropped some hints that he is staying put in Portland after rumors swirled that he was extremely unhappy and might soon ask for a trade away from the Blazers. I’m the kind of man to lead his people To the promise land (Promise land) By any means, the hoop rock is not contraband We come from towels on the counter Dryin’ pots and pans and if you not the man Then you support, don’t try to stop the man (Nah)
There's certainly a possibility Lillard arrives at training camp, looks around Portland's locker room and determines the Trail Blazers roster has not been upgraded to his satisfaction. Yet there's a stronger belief in league circles that Lillard will at least venture into the regular season under new head coach Chauncey Billups, allowing him to revisit moving elsewhere before the trade deadline.
Each of Minnesota, Golden State, Sacramento and San Antonio has been consistently linked as a top Simmons destination, yet the overwhelming sense among league insiders continues to be that Simmons, for now, is expected to remain a Sixer once training camp opens on September 28—barring a change of temperature with Damian Lillard in Portland. That appears to be the ever-important undercurrent to what has been routinely described as a "James Harden-like" package Philadelphia is seeking for any Simmons return.
They have a temporary time advantage no one is talking about. There is a good chance the Lillard trade war, should it ever happen, comes down to the Sixers and New York Knicks. (And to be clear: Lillard is not available, and has not asked for a trade, sources said.) Other alternatives will pop up. Any team willing to trade all its future picks and swap rights can butt into the conversation.
As he takes part in the Olympics with Team USA and prepares for the gold medal game against Team France, he is neither happy nor upset with what has gone down this week concerning his Portland Trail Blazers. “Honestly I haven’t really dove too deep into it. I’ve really been focusing on here,” Lillard said Friday on a USA Basketball conference call. “There are a lot of things that are out of my control. When you go into free agency and things like this, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know where guys are going to end up and why they go there. You just try to have conversations and try to convince guys to be a part of our team.”
The Blazers landed Cody Zeller and Tony Snell while also inviting Michael Beasley, Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay — all of whom played in China last season — to play for its summer league team. “Obviously, this go-round, we weren’t able to go out there and get some of the guys that we would have liked,” Lillard said. “You know, you go down the list and you go through the guys you like that are out there and haven’t committed to another team or that was a part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones that want to be a part of what you are doing, and I think that’s what we did.”
Goodwill made mention of the New York Knicks’ calculated moves, in how they coallign with a potential Lillard deal, should his relationship with the Blazer go awry. In providing his own outlook on the situation, Haynes had this to say. “I expect Damian Lillard to go and play for the Portland Trail Blazers. I expect him to try out this roster. I believe he wants to give Chauncey Billups a chance. And I think he’s going to go there, give the roster a shot. And Portland’s probably still not done. You know, I’m hearing Paul Millsap, a guy they’re looking at. I’m hearing Kelly Oubre, who’s still on the market, a guy that they’re looking at, so they’re still not done. But I expect Dame to go out there next season, play, see how things materialize, and go from there.
And then you Damian Lillard, who’s been as public as he’s ever been in stating his dissatisfaction with the way things are going with the team and the roster construction. And then you bring on these players, who I’m not saying, you know, Norman Powell they had to re-sign. Five years, they had to. You couldn’t let him go. But outside of that, there wasn’t much done that I think moves the needle. And you brought up that New York angle, you know, from all accounts of what we’re hearing, definitely, the Knicks have an eye on Damian Lillard, so we’ll see what happens from there.”
Tommy Beer: Stephen A. Smith, on @SiriusXMNBA , says that although Dame Lillard has not yet demanded a trade, Smith knows "for a fact" that if Dame were to be traded, New York "would be his number 1 destination," adding "I'm telling you what I know. I'm not guessing."
Tommy Beer: Smith explains that Lillard believes "in the New York market, unlike in Portland, it would be considerably easier for him to pull off getting guys to want to come to play with him... guys like a Jayson Tatum down the line, like a Joel Embiid down the line, guys like that."
In addition, Damian Lillard could still ask for a trade away from Portland and various reports have the Knicks very high on his list. That actually isn’t as good as it sounds, as the Trail Blazers can — and will — take the very best deal, according to league sources. The Knicks have to hope they have a thing for Lithuanian lefty combo guards.
"I have never said that. I laughed when I saw it cuz I've literally never said that. I've been seeing a lot of things being said. I've been as open about the situation as I could possibly be." Damian Lillard on rumors that he'd give up money to be traded.
Abbott went through the details of the two’s public sparring on Twitter and the backlash he received before getting into the conversation with Lillard: “I published it and tweeted it, and then he like, retweeted it with the facepalm emoji, and then he talked to reporters and said that none of it was true. And then, I tweeted … after like a day of epic meltdown, everything in my mentions was a nightmare of people saying I’m a liar and making up stories, I’m bad at my job. And some of that just comes with the business. This was like a lot. I’ve been doing this for a long time. This was a lot. So, then I basically write what you just said Jarod. And then, Damian immediately replied to that saying he doesn’t lie. Then, he started direct messaging me and he’s in Tokyo at the Olympics, so we’re direct messaging, just like hammering away, trying to straighten it out. Then my phone rings and it’s Aaron Goodwin, who is Damian Lillard’s agent. I think I’ve known Aaron Goodwin longer than Damian has. Like, Aaron and I go way back. We’ve been through a lot of stuff, and I hold him in tremendously-high regards in a lot of ways.”
Abbott said that he wouldn’t be transparent about everything he and Lillard discussed when he requested to speak with him. But, he did share a story of Lillard’s positive vibe, even in the middle of the discussion. “Most of what happened on the phone call I’m just not going to share. It’s private. It was Dame and I getting to know each other? Actually at one point, I will tell you this funny part. I’m like, you know, ‘This thing happened, this thing happened, Twitter’s like a warzone for me now, and it’s my birthday. And Aaron starts talking, everyone starts talking, and Dame’s just like, ‘Henry, Henry, Henry, happy birthday, man.’ I’m like ‘Thank you, Dame.’”
Outside of those anecdotes, Abbott said that he called the “Dream Team” of people who would know Lillard’s leverage and control, continually insisting that neither party lied. He noted that there’s only one way out of Portland in Lillard’s case, and it would be similar to James Harden, skipping training camp, having the front office question if he’s going to give 100 percent, etc. The link to the rest of the podcast, for those interested, can be found above.
For all the undeniable tension in the Pacific Northwest, neither Portland nor Lillard is ready to entertain trade possibilities … certainly not while Lillard is in Tokyo trying to focus on the Olympics.
It was made clear, when I checked it out, that Lillard remains the Trail Blazer coveted by Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. The Sixers know they have to get this right and keep insisting that they are determined not to rush into anything.
CJ McCollum: Lmao Rolling on the floor laughing bruh at this rate we’re going to have to do an emergency press release on my podcast if they keep this up Face with tears of joy
Nate Jones: The story of Dame giving back $ is the funniest thing ever. Same guy that kept his entire per diem for his first two seasons and still approves EVERY SINGLE INVOICE (even as small as hundreds of $) personally. Yep, totally makes sense. @Dame_Lillard
Damian Lillard: 🤦 Henry Abbott: "Sources say Damian Lillard is willing to forgo paychecks to get to a title team, if it comes to that." Did you know Lillard has earned almost $300 million already? A lot of new insight for TrueHoop subscribers: https://truehoop.com/p/damian-lillards-power-play Free preview: https://truehoop.com/p/damian-lillards-power-play-319
On the Lillard front, sources say he’ll continue focusing on his Team USA experience while waiting to see how the Blazers’ roster looks later in the offseason before reassessing his situation. Our Trail Blazers beat writer, Jason Quick, details those sensitive dynamics well here.
Indeed, that Wednesday it was Damian Lillard who complained most memorably. Sources say he told his national team friends that he thought the situation in Portland was getting worse. The next day was his birthday; he would turn 31. He told the group that he had meetings with his team coming up the day after that, and he was thinking about demanding a trade.
He put percentages on it—75/25—which confused people. What did that mean? It meant he would listen to the team’s plans, and if he didn’t like what he heard, he would demand a trade. He estimated he was 25 percent likely to demand a trade that Friday. Whatever the number, some in the room tell TrueHoop they took it as the beginning of the end for Lillard and the Blazers.
Time is on Philadelphia's side. The Sixers are not required to trade Simmons, although the overwhelming expectation around the league is that he will be moved before the 2021-22 season tips. That could occur in August; team executives are anxiously awaiting Damian Lillard's return from the Tokyo Olympics, and a potential trade request that could occur if the All-Star guard doesn't endorse Portland's offseason roster adjustments. "I think Daryl is just waiting for the Dame situation to explode," said one team official.
Beal's potential availability has sparked significant discussion among league personnel, but there appears to be less confidence Lillard will seek a different team prior to training camp. Warriors officials have expressed doubt Lillard would eye Golden State as a destination.
Just over a week ago, Henry Abbott of True Hoop wrote, "A source close to [Damian] Lillard says that in the days to come, he plans to request a trade." A public trade demand has yet to arrive, but executives around the league are closely monitoring the Portland Trail Blazers as the NBA edges closer to the draft and free agency. "It sounds like he is not getting moved anytime soon," one Eastern Conference source told Bleacher Report. "From what I've heard, [Lillard is] going to give it a chance and then decide closer to the [trade] deadline."
That would give president of basketball operations Neil Olshey precious little time to turn his roster from a playoff disappointment into a contender (at least in the eyes of his star point guard). "I'm not sure how Olshey is going to get that done," a former Western Conference executive said. "Everyone in the NBA knows [the Blazers] are up against it. No one is going to help Olshey solve the Lillard crisis."
"New York and Golden State clearly have the best packages for Lillard," the Western Conference executive said. "Philadelphia in terms of draft considerations and young players, [assuming Simmons is re-routed]."
Marc Stein on the Warriors: "The way it was described to me by a team that I'll just say has been monitoring Golden State very closely is they want a star, the Warriors want a star... But, you know, who doesn't want a star? Can you package 7 and 14 picks and James Wiseman and get a star? When we're talking about stars, that's basically code for Bradley Beal, or Damian Lillard. Are either one of those guys really in play at this draft? It's probably more Lillard than Beal at this point but I just think the draft might come a step too soon for either one of those guys to be dealt."
After multiple reports suggested Lillard could ask out of Portland, he clarified last week that such rumblings were inaccurate. Simmons, currently the only All-Star known to be shopped by his team, is also unlikely to land with the Warriors. The 76ers are asking for a massive haul that includes an All-Star-level player. Per a league source, Golden State wouldn’t be willing to give up what it would take to get Simmons.
Marc Stein: Golden State has indeed signaled a willingness to trade the 7th and 14th overall picks, league sources say, but the Warriors are said to be trying to construct a deal that brings back "a star." Star translates to Washington's Bradley Beal or Portland's Damian Lillard — neither of whom figures to be available for a trade package in which, irrespective of how many draft assets are attached, Andrew Wiggins is the standout veteran.
Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who has been rumored to be unhappy with Portland and a threat to demand a trade, was another desired player if he were to become available. But Lillard has clarified he has not demanded a trade and multiple sources said the Warriors don’t suspect Lillard would want to come to the Bay.
Within the Blazers — both on the business side and the basketball side — Lillard’s call for accountability and action has been met with the appropriate alarm. No one yet is convinced he will request a trade, and as one executive put it, “I don’t think he wants to leave. He has built an empire here. But we have to assume he is leaving to make sure he is not leaving.”
As far as Enes Kanter is concerned, all the Damian Lillard speculations are hogwash. In an appearance on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” the veteran big man banked on Lillard’s loyalty as the sole reason for Blazers fans to stop worrying. “I played with Dame two years ago, I played with Dame this year, like I’ve said in many interviews, he’s the most loyal player I have ever seen in the league … I don’t think he’s going to leave. He even said it himself, he ‘woke up to all these trades rumors, and it’s not true,’ and I don’t think it’s true.”
Few team executives expect a Dame deal to happen this offseason. But multiple front-office sources say the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have recently been the most aggressive suitors.
Front-office executives say that if the Blazers eventually move Lillard, they can expect a return rivaling or surpassing what the Nets gave up for James Harden: multiple young players, plus three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps. Harden is a former MVP, but he had only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade. Portland could do even better because Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract worth a grand total of $176 million. The long-term security in Lillard’s contract could lead to more interest from teams and more return in a trade.
The Sixers hope to enter the Lillard sweepstakes, not settle for McCollum. But there’s pressure on the Sixers front office to maximize Joel Embiid’s prime. And just like Simmons could be better in Portland, McCollum could be better in Philadelphia.
August 18, 2022 | 2:54 am EDT Update
The Lakers remain active in trade talks and would part with their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in the right deal, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in an appearance on Sports Center (video link). Those picks “have a lot of value in the marketplace” if they’re unprotected, Wojnarowski states. He adds that L.A. would be willing to give them up in a trade for Kyrie Irving, but the Nets haven’t been interested.
Those around the team were confident that James signing an extension was likely, considering how much he’s enjoyed playing for the Lakers and living in Los Angeles. The primary complication in James’ decision was that he has been privately adamant that the Lakers still need to improve the current roster and trade for superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, league sources have told The Athletic.
The Lakers have explored runs at Nets point guard Kyrie Irving ($36.9 million expiring contract), but it’s unclear if Brooklyn would want to include Joe Harris’ $19.9 million salary for 2023-24 as well. The Pacers have Buddy Hield, a former client of Lakers executive Rob Pelinka, at $18.6-23.3 million for next season (depending on incentives). Los Angeles has also explored a deal for Pacers center Myles Turner with the expectation that he would extend or re-sign beyond his current $17.5-20 million salary for 2022-23.
Per several sources connected to teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers have not been willing to part with significant draft capital to get off Westbrook’s contract. But that may have been tied to uncertainty surrounding James’ future, which is now put to rest.
The sense from those sources: Westbrook will have a new home when the Lakers green-light trades that include both their 2027 and 2029 first-rounders. What’s still unclear is whether L.A. will be willing to do so.
Rob Pelinka has been “very active” in attempting to add more shooting and size to the Los Angeles Lakers roster, according to Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN. “Rob Pelinka has still been very active, even in the dog days of August. He’s been on the phone a lot, he’s still trying to find deals to bring in more shooting, perhaps some size. And so I think those conversations continue all the way into training camp,” said Wojnarowski on NBA Today.
Among the executives with whom I spoke, a Boston deal with Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece appears to be the unofficial front-runner here. In general terms, sources say the Nets are using the fact that the Celtics (and perhaps other teams) have made their second-best player available as a baseline of sorts in negotiations. Translation: If you’re still trying to discuss a Durant deal without putting your second-best talent on the table, then just stop wasting everyone’s time and bow out of this race.