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.
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Jason Quick: Damian Lillard on this: “False.”
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
Kyle Kuzma: 👀
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.
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December 12, 2018 | 3:57 am EST Update
The Clippers, it seems, closely watch every Raptors and Warriors game this season. Even though they are having a terrific season of their own — experiencing the rare joy of expectation-free success in the NBA — the Clippers are rather transparently obsessed with chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer.
But even by these modern standards, the Clippers’ pursuit is still a little revolutionary. Raptors officials have noticed a Clippers employee at roughly 75 percent of the team’s games thus far this season. That has included president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, which is rare. Presidents and general managers are almost never seen attending a game that doesn’t involve their teams.
Tobias Harris, the centerpiece of the Griffin trade, might be headed to his first All-Star Game and has been so valuable that some executives think they should use one of their max slots on him. The reviews for rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who the Clippers semi-hid by promising him they’d draft him in the lottery, and he at least partially shut down workouts, have been excellent.
On Saturday Dinwiddie became eligible for a four-year contract extension worth a maximum of $47.5 million. But despite being the poster child for the Nets’ much-hyped player development (he was a finalist for last season’s NBA Most Improved Player Award), Dinwiddie still does not have an extension. “No news. Nothing to report,” Dinwiddie’s agent, Raymond Brothers, said. “Dec. 8, it came, it’s gone. I don’t have an extension,” said Dinwiddie, 25. “Just let Raymond and [Nets general manager] Sean [Marks] talk about it. I already said what I needed to say.”
One NBA source proclaimed surprise the Nets didn’t offer Dinwiddie an extension, and at least three others suggested he would be worth more in the unrestricted free-agent market next summer, when a number of teams should be flush with cash. So, by all accounts, he is offering the Nets a hometown discount.
Dinwiddie also has been linked with the point guard-needy Suns. Phoenix now reportedly is looking at a three-way deal that would send Trevor Ariza to the Lakers and ship Los Angeles’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a third team in order to get them their guard.