Damian Lillard is not James Harden. Not in style of play, not in personality and lifestyle, and not in facial hair.
And not in trying to force a trade he desires.
While Harden has been making headlines — calling his GM a liar and getting fined by the league — Lillard has been quiet. Recently, Lillard sat down for an interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape and for the first time confirmed he asked for a trade, but he was not throwing the Trail Blazers under the bus.
“I’m not going to speak on the Blazers. It’s lot of love and respect, but I won’t speak on the Blazers…. I can say that there was [a trade request], and I would just prefer not to speak on the Trail Blazers.”
Lillard also said in the interview his motivation is to get the ring that he never got in Portland (hence his desire to get traded to the Heat, a team in the Finals last season but in need of one more piece).
When asked about his title aspirations at age 33, Lillard said: “It’s higher than it’s ever been. When you’re younger and you’re winning, you realize that you got time. When you establish yourself in the league and you know that you’re here to stay, you feel like you have time. The older you get, that just means more time that you’ve put into it, especially when you’re at the top of the game and you’re having all these individual accomplishments, it becomes more and more of a priority to have the ultimate accomplishment, which is why we play the game, in winning the championship.
The expectation is that Lillard trade talks will return to the front burner as we get closer to training camp at the start of October. The Heat want Lillard in their training camp and the Trail Blazers don’t want the awkward distraction of having Lillard in their camp with their young stars such as Scoot Henderson.
Everyone is going to have to compromise to get a trade done. Portland has to acknowledge there is not much of a market for a 33-year-old Lillard owed $216.2 million over the next four years and accept picks that may not end up being in the lottery (the Gobert/Mitchell trade offers are not out there). Miami has to find a third team to take on Tyler Herro because he’s not a great fit in Portland. There’s a lot of work to do, but it’s not insurmountable.
Once the pressure of training camp nears, talks will pick back up. Just don’t expect Lillard to go Harden on Portland — a city he loves and an organization he’s invested in — to get the deal done.