Even in Portland, few are questioning why Damian Lillard requested a trade this summer. Outside the Pacific Northwest, people thought he should have done this years ago. In Portland, even the die-hards understand the franchise is starting to retool the roster and Lillard, at age 33, wants to win a ring now.
Lillard appeared on Back on Fig with T-Rell and Smacc and discussed his decision (hat tip Hoopshype).
“It’s a way that you have to go about things where you can’t be an idiot. You say I’m gonna stay down, I’m gonna ride till the wheels fall off and all that stuff. I don’t have to prove that to nobody, like I’ve shown it. I mean that in my heart. But that’s like me and you saying no matter what happens we ain’t telling on each other. Ya know, I’m saying we never tell on each other. And then the day comes where I’m still playing by those same rules… Like man, you want the same thing? We’re gonna go out together and then that ain’t the code you want to live by no more. So when that happens, you can’t be how it was… You don’t want the same thing no more and you show me that you don’t want the same thing. We don’t want the same thing.”
With teams back from vacation, training camps opening in a few weeks and business returning to normal around the NBA, talks around a Lillard trade are heating up again (including rumors of potential other suitors or third teams in the deal).
The fundamental dynamics of the trade have not changed. Portland wants a massive haul for the All-NBA guard after seeing what the Nets got for Kevin Durant a year ago (or what the Cavaliers got for Donovan Mitchell before that). However, the demand for a 33-year-old Lillard still owed $216 million guaranteed over four years is not that high and only Miami has stepped forward as a genuine suitor to this point (although there are rumors of others at least kicking the tires). Portland GM Joe Cronin doesn’t love the Miami tade package — likely a couple of first-round picks (they can get a third) and a combination of Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry and his big contract, and other players. The sides have looked for a third trade partner and Cronin is hopeful another team jumps in the mix to put pressure on the Heat to add to their offer.
Still, it makes sense for the sides to get a deal done before training camps open on Oct. 3 or just after. Why Miami wants Lillard for all of training camp is obvious, to adjust to playing with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. For Portland, just bringing Lillard to training camp as they try to turn the page to the Scoot Henderson era will be a distraction. Not that Lillard will come in being disruptive, but if he is at media day and with the team during training camp, it will be a media circus with every player and coach (not to mention Cronin) being asked about Lillard at every turn.
The sides are talking again, and we know what Lillard wants. Expect a lot of Lillard trade rumors in the coming weeks, and the only question is when all that smoke bursts into a fire.