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.
According to one league executive, the Knicks likely would be willing to trade three or four of their first-rounders in a deal for Lillard if that means they can hold onto Barrett and Obi Toppin.
Those talks, Lillard said, have revisited the same topics from nearly two years ago. The suggestions they leave for better teams or bigger markets. The notion they could do better, be better and live better in a different city. “I know how he feels because I get that all the time: ‘You should go here; you should go there …’ from all kinds of different people, and I know he gets it too,” Lillard said. “We’ve had that conversation. … He has the same feeling about it as I have: I just don’t want to go elsewhere. This is our ninth year. We’ve been so invested in this to where it’s like, this is what it is. This is where I want to get it done. And I’m sure he feels that same way.”
“I want to see it through here,’’ Lillard said. “And I want to see it through here more than I care to go somewhere else and just win it, period, you know? I feel like if I did go to another team and we won the championship, I would be obviously beyond happy and excited, but I don’t think it would be the same feeling as if I went through everything we went through here and worked for everything we worked for here. It wasn’t here. It would hit different for me here.’’
On an episode of Million $ Worth of Game, Damian Lillard explained why he won’t be joining a Super Team during his NBA career. The Portland Trail Blazers star doesn’t criticize those around the league who make the choices to join a Super Team, but he’d prefer to take a more challenging and rewarding path. “I would never do that,” Lillard said. “I mean I don’t control—if the team decides to trade me somewhere, I can’t control that, but it ain’t for me.”
A source with knowledge of Lillard’s situation said there was Lakers interest in a superstar pairing with Lillard and LeBron James before the Davis deal went down in June 2019. What’s more, the source said there was a Brooklyn Nets scenario that never evolved which could have paired Kevin Durant with Lillard last summer if only he’d shown any interest (this was before Kyrie Irving’s inclusion had truly crystallized). Of course some of the game’s biggest stars, and/or the power brokers tied to them, have inquired about the possibility of Lillard pushing his way out to come join them.
Earl Watson: Since @Dame_Lillard won’t say it, I will! Before Dame’s last extension he was approached to join a super team! He immediately called me & I’m assuming it’s because he respects me! I asked him, “what do you want to do”?! He didn’t waste a second before he responded, “Big EJ, I want to stay in Portland, build it with my teammates & beat every mf super team”! My response was, “Real ones do things others are afraid to endure”! He didn’t waste a second before he responded, “Big EJ, I want to stay in Portland, build it with my teammates & beat every mf super team”! My response was, “Real ones do things others are afraid to endure”!
Earl Watson: So to the media, stop the bullshit analytics on why @Dame_Lillard is not a superstar in playoffs wins, point minus etc... if not you’ll drive top players to link up just to shut you up & kill the game! Dame doesn’t control FA,draft or attractiveness to the city he was drafted to! Lastly, whether he does it this season or next whenever... Thank you for pissing off the wrong one! @Dame_Lillard feeds on the doubters, haters, attention seeking whatever! True Oakland & True Warrior! Portland has a Real 0ne! ???#familia
"I wouldn't even say it was somebody offering me to go to another team," Lillard said. "It was just something that was constantly being mentioned to me, like 'You should do this, you should go here.' And I just said, 'That's not what I wish to do.' Where I was drafted, I live there comfortably, my family is comfortable, it's a great organization. … The grass ain't always greener. For me, I feel like we can build something and get it done in Portland. And I really believe that. I don't just say it to say it."
Stone Cold Shea Jackson: It’s mostly trolls I guess. But even homie callin him entitled. Earlier in June and people siding with him. Now they talkin bout him demanding a trade and shit but it ain’t never from him. And that got niggas callin him a bum. And he the realest dude you could find in the league. Damian Lillard: My stance ain’t changed. This is a result of a pandemic and lack of content lol.
When the season shut down, the Trail Blazers were in ninth place; if you move up to eighth, you could play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. You want that? Damian Lillard: Of course. I think we could beat them. As a Knicks fan, I wish you would come here. Madison Square Garden is so great. Damian Lillard: I thought I was headed there a few years ago; I was hearing trade rumors. The Garden is my favorite place to play.
As a Knicks fan, I wish you would come here. Madison Square Garden is so great. Damian Lillard: I thought I was headed there a few years ago; I was hearing trade rumors. The Garden is my favorite place to play.
Based on what Damian Lillard has said in interviews, it seems like he has no interest in leaving Portland. With that said, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith mentioned in 2018 that Lillard would entertain the idea of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers or Portland Trail Blazers. Some opposing executives echoed those thoughts at the time, saying they believed Lillard would welcome the opportunity to play in a bigger market. But this was two years ago and Lillard has said several times that he doesn't want to go anywhere. So it seems like the chances of this happening are negligible at this point.
Do the Blazers have to make a big move before the deadline to keep his commitment in Portland? “That don’t have nothing to do with my commitment to the team,” Lillard said. “I mean, it’s not like we are going to do something that is going to take us to the championship at this point. I think it’s more important for us to protect the assets we have, the guys who are going to be here and who are going to help us going forward. I don’t think it makes sense to sacrifice that just to make a desperate play. “It’s been a tough season, but the season is not over. We can make something of this season as we are, but it’s not worth, you know, saying ‘OK, let’s force something and go do something that at the end of the day doesn’t make sense.’ But that has nothing to do with my commitment. I said it after last game (Golden State): I feel like I can find a way. I can weather the storm. I can go through hard times.”
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have no interest in joining the NBA’s player movement — even as the stars have seen their competitors demand trades and forge new allegiances.
"I don’t care what the trend is," Lillard told USA TODAY Sports. "Players are taking control of the power and influence they have. I don’t have an issue with it because there’s been times in the league that players didn’t have that and players were taken advantage of and put in tough situations. So I understand it. But I play for a great organization. I play for a great coach. I love where I live. I have a great situation."
"It will affect a lot of other people," Lillard said of requesting trades, per Yahoo. "Like I'm saying, I do want to win a championship but there's other stuff that means more to me. It's almost like I'm not willing to sell myself out for that instead of impacting this." Lillard also mentioned his relationships in Portland, saying that "I want to win a championship, I compete to win a championship, but I've learned that it's about so many other things. I think a lot of people tell you just because you go out and win a championship ... And then they look back and they're like 'man, this happened because of that, this happened because of that.' When my career is over and I know the relationships that I'm gonna have, I'm going to know the people who knew I was solid with them ... That I did it the right way."
Yahoo Sports NBA: "I'm not willing to sell myself out for (championships)"@Dame_Lillard on why he hasn't left Portland. The @Trailblazers All-Star joined @ChrisBHaynes on the latest episode of Posted Up... You DO NOT want to miss this!
In the interview with Haynes, Lillard discussed how much he values the notion of people looking back when his career is over and respecting the way he did things: "When my career is over and I'm gonna know the relationships that I'm gonna have. I am going to know the people who knew I was solid with them regardless of if I was at the top or if I control it. All of this stuff. That I did it the right way and I took people's situations and their families and what could be into consideration before I just made a decision based off, 'All right, this is what would be best for me. This is what people want to see me do.'"
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."
Given what you just said, does it bother you when you hear people say the Blazers should split Dame and CJ up? Jusuf Nurkic: Look, what do you get when you split up Dame and CJ? You get a lottery team, 20 wins probably in a year. That's not the goal. For a small-market team, I think that Portland is not appreciating what Dame really is. You're not going to get anytime some player like Dame here. Everybody knows that. The way he treats the city, the way he treats the people, the way he treats the guys around him. Even a person he just met, any day, he treats every person the same. That's what's amazing for me to see.
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.
There have always been whispers in league circles that Portland should break up the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum duo, but there has been no indication it will. Portland is a playoff bubble team, though, and has few other avenues to make noteworthy changes.
Lillard signed a five-year, $140 million extension in 2015 that will keep him under contract through the 2020-21 season. In a rare move for a star of his caliber, he chose to forego a player option in the final year of his deal. It was a sign of his long-term commitment to seeing things through in Portland, a mindset he reiterated Monday at the team's media day. "For me, I have never asked for a trade or been in a position where I was like, 'I'm going to tell them to trade me,' because I'm all about the challenge," Lillard said. "But there's also the other side: My family is happy here, I'm happy with my situation here. So if a situation was ever to come up, or if I felt disrespected, or I wasn't valued, or they felt like it was time for me to move on, then that would be the time. But I don't feel that way."
Lillard, who grew up in Oakland, has bought into Portland as a home in a way no star player has since perhaps Porter, whose children grew up here, and who remains in the city as the head coach of the University of Portland. “My family is happy here,” Lillard said. “I’m happy with my situation here.”
David MacKay: Damian Lillard: "If a situation ever were to come up where I felt like I wasn't valued ... then that would be the time (to ask for a trade) but I don't feel that way."
John Gambadoro: Suns have definitely been trying to trade for a front tier point guard - Lillard, Walker, Rozier - but to no avail. Situation at point guard now is not ideal and Phoenix will have to make a trade but Milwaukee pick that they own is not that valuable.
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."
Twitter User: If the Blazers traded you to the Lakers to help LeBron would you be happy? Damian Lillard: I’m typically a happy camper
It’s been reported that Olshey has previously rejected offers for Lillard and McCollum. But that doesn’t mean the phones will stop buzzing. Even before this series, league executives had assumed that Olshey would break up the duo if they failed again. We’ll find out in due time, but the idea should be entertained.
Joe Freeman: This is a tired debate, IMO. Important people have made it clear to me that McCollum isn't going anywhere. (http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2018/02/portland_trail_blazers_brace_for_nba_trade_deadlin.html) And I can assure you Lillard isn't going anywhere. It's incumbent on the front office to put the right players around them.
Some folks have pitched deals centered around C.J. McCollum. Portland continues to reject any inquires on McCollum and Damian Lillard, sources say.
Zach Lowe: I've heard the same as you, which is that any, any, any calls to break up the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum backcourt have been summarily rejected by the Blazers. Do they have anything cooking in terms of getting under the tax? Adrian Wojnarowski: I think Maurice Harkless is a player that has been discussed in some different places, and that's certainly a position the Blazers have wanted to get better at and upgrade. But it's tough, everybody in the league wants—there's such a premium on wings. And Harkless had his best season a couple of years ago before they did the four-year deal, and he hasn't played as well since. Sacramento, in the past, has had some interest in him.
Are you hearing the Blazers may look to trade Lillard or McCollum? Sam Amick: “I’m not hearing that. In fact, the last time I talked to someone who inquired about those guys to Portland was about two weeks ago and Portland said they aren’t moving their guys. But you always have to look at the personality of the executive and Neil Olshey is not only one of those really aggressive GMs, he’s one of those turn-over-every-rock GMs. He’s also a guy who’s very good at laying in the weeds, so a lot of his stuff gets done in the dark and we don’t hear about it until the very end. … But they have to think about this stuff. When you look at the standings and you’re a middle-of-the-road team that has no shot of winning a championship or even getting to the Conference Finals, you have to try to get something done. And Marc [Stein] is obviously one of the best in the business and I'm sure he's getting it from a good place, so it is something worth watching.”
According to sources, the meeting was held without knowledge of anyone else in the organization. Allen notified the Trail Blazers' basketball operations and business branch afterward. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Allen feared Lillard would request a trade, sources said, but a trade request was not made. The two-time All-Star made it clear, though, that he has championship aspirations and wanted to fulfill those lofty goals during the remaining years of his prime window.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Portland's goal is to build around CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic. They're not interested in trading any of those three players. They would love to bring another impact player to add to them.
“I’ve seen my name thrown around,” said Lillard after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a surprise, but then it’s not a surprise just because on the business side, it doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes people like to rock the boat, it could be a rumor. If there was any truth to it, then that would be disheartening, especially for me because I’m really invested in Portland. I want to be here. It’s been tough to attract stars to Portland, historically, for this organization. For me to be 26 years old and invested in Portland and want to be in Portland, I don’t see why (being traded) would make sense.”
“It’s a business and you just never know,” said Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard of rumors around the NBA trade deadline. “You see DeMarcus Cousins playing in the All-Star Game and he’s doing a post-game interview and finds out he’s traded to New Orleans. Him being that level of a player and it happening just like that — and obviously they’ve had their own issues in Sacramento, so it’s a little different — you just never know is the point.”
Teams will, and should, inquire about Damian Lillard as well, although they’ll likely be rebuffed, league sources say. Portland will certainly explore options to cut costs and avoid becoming a tax team next season.
I know some players stay up-to-date on all of the rumors, but I know others ignore it. What’s your approach? Damian Lillard: I hear stuff, but I don’t go searching for it. I know it’s out there and sometimes people mention it to me. I’ve never heard my name mentioned in a trade rumor. But even if it was, it’s out of my control. I know my team knows my value to the organization, so I just play. Whatever people decide to do, it is what it is.
June 27, 2022 | 9:55 pm EDT Update
June 27, 2022 | 8:30 pm EDT Update
The Warriors are considered to be the favorites to retain Payton’s services. It isn’t a secret how much he loves the Warriors’ environment, the Bay Area and his fit as a defensive pest and off-ball slasher in a Curry-fueled environment.