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.
Ian Begley: “Right now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Damian Lillard says when asked if he’s committed to Portland at the moment. Lillard adds that he’s always felt in “my heart’ that he’d spend his entire career in Portland. But Lillard adds that he has strong desire to win.
Chris Mannix: Lillard confirms that he intends to meet with Neil Olshey and Chauncey Billups today, as @Frank Isola reported. Adds that it's not a "big, crazy meeting," just a conversation.
Mark Medina: Damian Lillard: "I have made no firm decision on what my future will be." But he stressed it's not true he wants Portland to trade him
Chris Mannix: Lillard again declines to discuss what will go into his decision making process. Says he will continue to only discuss it with his team.
All Trail Blazers: "We're not even to that point [of Lillard asking to be traded]...As of right now, he just wants to see a change and he wants to get away from the norm. That is his focus." @ChrisBHaynes on Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is not planning to demand that the Portland Trail Blazers trade him, an NBA source has told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Henry Abbott of Truehoop.com reported this morning that a source told him that Lillard wants out and will request a trade in the coming days. A source has told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Abbott’s report is not true.
Chris Haynes: Having known you for years and your position, why is this current juncture such a pivotal moment for you? Damian Lillard: There are few reasons: One being I'm not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great. We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, ‘Man, this just isn't going to work.’ We're not winning the championship, but we’ve got a successful organization. We're not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided. We have positive seasons; we just don't end up with a championship.
Damian Lillard: So I feel like at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you've always been. Just like I hold myself accountable for a bad performance or hold myself accountable to make sure that I work my ass off when I’m training, I must be accountable for saying what needs to be said even if it's not popular. And that just comes with age. When I was younger, I felt like maybe I'll be out of place, but I feel like I've earned the right to say we must do better. We must do better if we want to win on that level. (Lillard will address a report about his future with the team following Team USA practice on Friday.)
Damian Lillard: I think that's the stage we're at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organization must look in the mirror because we’ve constantly come up short. We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we’re doing is not working and it’s not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on.
Henry Abbott: Source: Blazers star Damian Lillard to request trade in the days to come. If this is a surprise, you haven't been paying attention. Jusuf Nurkic: Y’all really about to believe a guy with a name Henry abboott 🤖.🤣🤣🤣.🧢🧢
Grant Afseth: Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard has his eyes on the New York Knicks among trade destinations in the event he were to be dealt, per a source. Jusuf Nurkic: What a 🤡 bruh... Keep 🧢 🤡.
If this is a surprise, you haven’t been paying attention. As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team. The Blazers are prominent in trade rumors.
Lately Lillard has been with Team USA, mostly in Los Angeles, far from the Blazers drama. (Team USA has a history of inspiring NBA stars to dream of playing together. Time on Team USA bonded Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James before they assembled on the Heat.) Last Thursday, Lillard told reporters he was prepared to do his job “every year like I always do” but stopped well short of endorsing anyone or anything about the Blazers.
Yet even if Morey, deep down, wishes he had a do-over on his January or March dealings, he has shown little inclination to rush into shedding Simmons, which is undoubtedly a nod to one of the most complex situations he has ever faced. All teams covet the biggest stars, but Morey is especially obsessive about it. He will surely tune out the naysayers who suggest Simmons can no longer be the centerpiece for the acquisition of a Bradley Beal-type superstar. Portland’s CJ McCollum has been mentioned often as a potential Sixers target in a Simmons deal; rest assured that Morey longs for Damian Lillard if he is targeting any Trail Blazer.
Anthony Slater: Would the Warriors get involved (in a Damian Lillard potential trade)? Yes. They’d make a call and have already internally discussed the idea, as I’m sure most contenders have, considering the rising smoke out of Portland.
But then there’s the Lillard side. Would he want to come to San Francisco — not his hometown of Oakland anymore — and serve as a backcourt 1B to Steph Curry? My sense is no. And I don’t think any trade or Lillard gets past first base if he hasn’t already approved the landing spot.
Rapper/businessman Ice Cube issued a challenge to Damian Lillard. Cube, real name O’Shea Jackson, is a big Los Angeles Lakers fan. He appeared on Stephen A. Smith’s show on Friday and was asked what advice he would give Lillard regarding the Portland guard’s future. “If you want a championship, he should come join the Lakers,” Cube told Smith. “If you want to just score a lot of points and be the man, stay in Portland. But come win a championship. You deserve it. He’s given a lot to that city. So give some of that love to the L.A. Lakers, man.”
In a Lillard trade, the Knicks don’t want to have their roster ransacked but likely are willing to give up three of their future first-round picks. RJ Barrett is not considered an untouchable in a deal for a superstar, according to a source.
Numerous times in the past Damian Lillard has affirmed he has no intention of wanting to be traded from the Portland Trail Blazers. Dealing with a fresh round of speculation in the wake of a coaching change, Lillard said Thursday he'll keep his thoughts on the direction of the team between himself and the franchise. "Anything that I have to say, I'm going to say directly to [Blazers general manager] Neil [Olshey] and I'm going to address it directly with my team," Lillard said after the third day of Team USA training camp in Las Vegas. "There's really nothing else I have to say about it."
"There's a lot of things being said and sometimes words being put in my mouth and I haven't said anything," Lillard said. "If there is something to be said or if I think something or have something to say that I'm going to say it and I'm going to stand on it."
Every NBA person I talked to said Sixers GM Daryl Morey wants someone such as Damian Lillard in a Simmons deal. The Love/Sexton/draft pick package would have little appeal to him.
J. Michael Falgoust: While #Pacers are open to moving down from 13 or packaging it in a deal, Im told there havent been any talks w/#Sixers who are angling for Lillard. For context about Pacers, they avoid albatross contracts. Had a deal in place for Conley 2 yrs ago nixed by Simon. Too much salary
“The other is Damian Lillard. It’s still very much up in the air, Lillard’s future in Portland. If in the coming weeks the Blazers decide that they have to trade Damian Lillard, I think Boston would be in a pretty good position to make a strong offer that would have to include Jaylen Brown. So, you don’t just move him to shake things up, but if one of those two players becomes available I think you have to look long and hard about trading Jaylen Brown.”
Another source questioned why either team would make that deal, specifically saying it doesn’t do enough to address Philadelphia’s need for leadership. The source suggested the Kings could make a serious play for Simmons if they make De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton available. Some believe the 76ers could make a move for Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard instead.
It’s worth noting that in 2019 Lillard was on Leonard’s list of stars he wanted to team up with, league sources say. But Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract. Portland doesn’t need to trade him. If it came to the point where a trade was inevitable, Los Angeles wouldn’t have many goodies to add to a trade involving George, and if the Blazers would rather have younger players and picks, the Clippers would easily be outbid.
The source told the Daily News that the Knicks are interested in packaging rising star RJ Barrett in a deal for a star guard, like Portland’s Damian Lillard or Washington’s Bradley Beal. If both the Trail Blazers and Wizards are uninterested in a deal, the source says the Knicks are also monitoring Cleveland’s Collin Sexton, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Charlotte’s Terry Rozier as younger guards the franchise can fold into its plans for the future.
First, given Lillard is heading into the first season of a four-year $176.3 million supermax extension, why would the Blazers honor such a request? That was a hotly debated question in NBA circles on Sunday. Lillard is under contract through at least the 2023-24 season, with a $48.8 million player option for 2024-25. With three fully guaranteed seasons ahead, Portland has no obligation to trade their best player and no obligation to send him to a contender of his choice. Right? Maybe.
"Portland has the leverage contractually, for sure, but Dame could pull a [James] Harden and make it messy to gain leverage," one player agent said. "He's a star [and stars have a lot of power in the NBA]," a former Western Conference executive said. "I think [a trade] will be agreed to mutually, but Portland will direct it."
Several teams made overtures but ultimately backed away when Harden indicated he wasn't interested in playing for their franchise. He had enough juice to not only push Houston into a deal, but also to one of his desired teams. "Harden has a very different situation contractually," a second player agent argued. "I assume Portland can/will trade Lillard wherever they want."
A Warriors offer may be the best. Even if the Blazers don't love Wiseman or the draft picks, teams are allowed more than one transaction in an offseason. They can look to move those assets on if they are looking for something specific. Is Golden State ready to add another player making over $40 million a season when Curry (who is due an extension), Thompson and Green are all highly paid? Subtracting Wiggins' deal would help.
"The Warriors are the only team that can make a trade and still contend, although the fit is questionable," one of the agents said. "The Warriors would have to do that. They'd be unstoppable," the former executive said.
Brian Windhorst: Executives out there and and teams out there that are in the hunt for star players, they have Damian Lillard 's name on the board, sort of high up. And then maybe down, not high on the board, but down on the sort of middle right side of the board... They have Donovan Mitchell.
Brian Windhorst: I don't think Chauncey is going to go into this worried that Damian is getting closer to the edge and and wants out. I know that it's very tempting to run to the trade machine and start to do Damian trades. But while I definitely see storm clouds over there, I'm not ready to say based on my conversations, I'm not ready to say that that's where it's at.
Obviously, Portland wouldn’t trade Lillard unless it was forced to do so. But as you’d expect, members of the Knicks organization have been doing homework/prep work on the possibility of Lillard becoming available via trade, per sources.
People in touch with the organization recently came away with the impression that New York would be interested in trading for Lillard, but would also be content to take a longer-term approach with the roster if the right opportunity didn’t arise.
Boston’s pursuit of Lillard will likely come to down their inclusion of Brown, which, understandably so, is an extremely hard decision to make. With Brown’s inclusion, the Celtics might not need to add too much more beyond an additional prospect and a first-round pick or two. Still, Brown is just 24-years-old and is still improving. He may never be as great as Lillard but the longevity of Brown and Tatum could outweigh the smaller window of contention Lillard and Tatum would have. There is so much the Celtics can still do to build a contender around Brown and Tatum over the next few years.
If the Warriors offer the kitchen sink for Lillard, it’s going to be hard for the Blazers to decline. In all likelihood, there will be a lot of pressure league-wide for Portland not totrade Lillard to Golden State. It’s already impossible to provide adequate coverage on Stephen Curry and Lillard alone, who need just a slither of space to get what is considered a good shot for them. The two of them together, along with a healthy Klay Thompson as a tertiary lethal shooter, and Draymond Green facilitating and setting screens, feels like an unstoppable offense.
Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large due to the tremendous fan base. But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said. Portland is currently in negotiations to make Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Chauncey Billups its next head coach.
None of the candidates that were interviewed were from suggestions from Lillard, sources said. And although the All-NBA guard has a relationship with Billups as a coach, announcer and former player, he had no prior knowledge of the past sexual assault allegations against him from 1997.
Of course, the Knicks could also look to package those picks in a trade for a star player. Including this draft, New York has five first-round picks in the next three drafts. So the club has plenty of draft capital to use in a trade. If a star like Damian Lillard somehow becomes available via trade, New York would have to offer that draft capital in any trade conversations with Portland.
Kanter doesn’t think Lillard wants out despite indications of his displeasure with the Blazers not getting out of the first round this season. The Knicks are monitoring Lillard’s situation with hopes he’ll land on the trade block. “You know one thing he doesn’t care about big markets, small markets,’’ Kanter said Monday on SiriusXM Radio. “He wants to win it all in Portland. I’m saying this every time I talk about him, but he’s definitely one of the most loyal and maybe the most loyal player in the league. People always talk about how good of a player he is, but he’s actually one of the best teammates that I’ve played with.”
“When you’re like one of the top five players in the league, of course you got to be frustrated because you want to go out there and win it all,’’ Kanter said. “And when that is not happening it can be very frustrating, but for him, he wants to do it all in Portland. He doesn’t care about the big market, big-city base, and that he wants to just bring a championship to Portland and the state of Oregon. “I think the one thing that maybe will be frustrating is if he couldn’t do it for Portland because this guy gives it all every night. Every night he’s hurt, he’s tired, he’s going out there and trying to do the best he can to just win with every game and give us 100 percent. So after the playoffs, I was really frustrated and sad because we couldn’t do it for Dame.”
Despite Kanter’s remarks, the Knicks, desperate for a point guard, believe they have assets and cap space to make a trade for a star such as Lillard. In addition, Knicks assistant coach Johnnie Bryant is a mentor of Lillard’s from their native Oakland, Calif. The Knicks have five first-round picks over the next three years. In the upcoming draft, they have three picks in the top 31 — including two first-rounders at 19 and 21. The Knicks are likely willing to include three first-round picks in a Lillard deal and have the cap space to make a transaction smoother mathematically.
Lillard privately requesting a deal would make things easier for Portland. But even if he doesn’t, there’s merit to seeing what’s out there. Reports of teams ramping up the pursuit of Lillard are hardly newsworthy. “We check in every year,” says a rival team executive. “You would be an idiot not to.”
So on Monday, I reached out to Lillard via text message and asked him a series of questions: Where his head was at with the Blazers? Where he stood with Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ top executive? And where his mind was long-term in relation to Portland? I also asked: Was he still whole-heartedly on board here, or was he starting to waver? Lillard’s two-sentence response was polite, and he finished by writing: “I have no comments about anything.”
I still don’t know if I believe Lillard would ever demand a trade out of Portland. It’s just not his style. It’s so against his brand, against his story, against everything he has preached for the past nine years. But, maybe I’m naive. Maybe his desire to win is greater than anything else.
I’ve observed Lillard intently for nine years. Interviewed him thousands of times. I’ve studied his background. Talked to many in his family and inner circle. And I’ve found he is the definition of integrity. He is selfless. He cares about people. He doesn’t do things halfway; when he puts his mind to something, there’s no deterring him. And when you hear him talk about his dreams of winning a title in Portland, not just read his quotes, but actually hear him say it — man, it’s a powerful thing, because I believe it’s coming from a powerful place — his heart.
Ryan Ward: Odds on Damian Lillard’s next team if traded, via @SportsBettingAG: Knicks +250 Clippers +275 Heat +300 Lakers +350 76ers +400 Celtics +450 So Lakers in the mix, but honestly I don’t know how they’d make that happen with the lack of trade assets they have.
But the six-time All-Star turns 31 in July. The nagging injuries have started, and the window to win with Lillard is closing. Olshey has given rival teams no indication that he’s willing to trade Lillard.
Lillard and his agent, Aaron Goodwin, could easily change that tone, though. A person close to Lillard told CNBC that he’s expected to wait to see what the Blazers do this off-season before deciding his future.
A rival NBA agent, who faced a similar situation with a star player, said Lillard could first gauge how serious ownership is about winning. The Blazers’ willingness to pay into the luxury tax, which carries steep financial penalties, is also a factor.
On the business side, McGowan doesn’t want the pressure of losing Lillard, either. When a rebuild occurs, a team loses leverage in negotiating corporate partnerships. The Blazers will be navigating a new regional sports network partner, moving from NBC Sports Northwest to AT&T’s Root Sports. Distribution issues have been a concern for the team for years and has cost it audience reach. But entering a new local TV deal with no superstar isn’t ideal.
Lillard’s value is no secret to management. A team executive, who asked not to be named so he could speak candidly, told CNBC that a Lillard departure is the biggest risk to the franchise’s value declining. The executive added that the team as currently constructed clearly isn’t good enough to win a title. Regardless of who’s to blame, the person said, big changes have to be made.
A Western Conference executive floated the idea of the Clippers trading Paul George this summer if the team failed to meet expectations. Hence, a possible McCollum to the Clippers package. And if Miami can’t lure a Lillard deal, McCollum could be an option there, too.
Sources say several NBA teams — including those in the top markets — are already intensely monitoring this situation in Portland and how it develops to look for an opening to make trade offers.
Clearly, NBA teams have seen this as an opening. Stephen A. Smith revealed on ESPN’s “First Take” Friday that “six or seven” teams have already called the Blazers to inquire about Lillard’s services. One of them was the Knicks, along with the Heat and Clippers. Lillard has three guaranteed years left on his contract, and stands to make $43 million next season.
The key to the Knicks’ potential Lillard bid is their assistant coach, Johnnie Bryant, who is close to the star point guard and is one of his mentors from Oakland. Bryant is a former Jazz assistant who joined Thibodeau’s staff in 2020. “That’s my big brother,’’ Lillard said in 2017 of Bryant. “I remember barely being in the seventh grade, getting ready for an AAU tournament, and Johnnie was in college at Utah, and they would come back and scrimmage us on outside courts with no net.’’
The Knicks – and most other NBA teams – are monitoring the Portland Trail Blazers' situation in the highly unlikely scenario that Damian Lillard seeks a trade. Lillard has consistently stated his desire to win in Portland, so it seems highly unlikely that he would seek a trade.
The Knicks are gearing up to be heavy hitters either on the trade market or in free agency this summer — with point guard their top priority — and they have their antennae up regarding the status of Portland superstar Damian Lillard.
It’s almost a perfect match. The Knicks have a trove of first-round picks, young prospects and a league-high $60 million in cap space to absorb his contact, which is worth $176.3 million over the next four years, according to Spotrac. They also have assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, a fellow Oakland, Calif., product with whom Lillard shares a close bond.
September 24, 2021 | 10:17 am EDT Update
Keith Smith: Hearing from multiple sources that Boston’s recent camp invites, Ryan Arcidiacono and Garrison Mathews, have a real shot at making the Celtics final 15-man roster. One source said “It’s not a lock that the roster is done either. Brad is still doing some tinkering.”
Have you guys talked about the playoffs as a goal for this team going into the new year? What are the expectations for the Cavaliers in that locker room? Darius Garland: In our locker room, our expectations are to make the playoffs. The league is very balanced this year, so it’s going to be tough, but I think we’ve got the guys and the mindset to do it.
Where do you feel you rank among the rest of the NBA point guards right now? Darius Garland: In my opinion, I think I’m up there for sure. I think last year I really solidified myself, and I think this year I have a lot to learn. I’m coming back for more this year, especially having the target on my back of these executives that are saying I’ll be the breakout player of the year. A lot of people are going to be coming at me and trying to see what I can do. I’m just coming in and trying to be aggressive, trying to play the game the right way, and trying to get wins.
What are your long-term goals looking ahead? Darius Garland: Team goals are winning championships and getting as many wins as we can. I want to be an All-Star, be the best I can be, and be one of the best players to ever play this game. That’s always been my goal since I picked up a basketball. I always wanted to be the best version of me. I want to be known around the league. I want to have my kids’ friends talk about remembering Darius Garland. A lot of All-Star appearances would be amazing. Hall of Fame.
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September 24, 2021 | 10:00 am EDT Update
Shams Charania: Free agent guard Garrison Mathews is signing a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Boston Celtics, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Mathews spent his first two NBA seasons with Wizards and played 64 games (24 starts) in 2020-21.
Hart’s contract seems built to trade and we have another logjam of capable guards this year. Do you foresee any moves once the season starts to try and swap a guard or two for forward help? — Nicholas S. The Hart contract was a smart move by New Orleans to create maximum flexibility moving forward. They can use his deal as a way to extract assets from a team looking to open up cap space in the future, or they can get rid of his contract themselves to open up additional space. While I expect New Orleans to be active on the trade market, especially if they get off to a slow start, I’d look to the backcourt as an area they’re more likely to address than the forward position.
Either way, I do think there will be quality guards available later in the season. We see it every year at the trade deadline. I think New Orleans would prefer to see Graham exceed expectations and someone like Alexander-Walker, Murphy or Marshall have a breakout season to make the backcourt look better than it does going into the season. Even if that is true, the Pels will need to add a third star to this roster at some point down the road to give Zion and Ingram a real shot at competing in the West. The most realistic path for that is acquiring one of the next disgruntled guards to hit the trade market. Maybe it’ll happen as early as this season. You never know when the next upset superstar will pop up out of nowhere.