Storyline: Damian Lillard Trade?

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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.

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.”

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.

“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.”
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