According to a source close to Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers superstar point guard is expected to request a trade away in the coming days, per TrueHoop.
“Anything I have to say, I’m going to say it directly to Neil [Olshey, the team’s General Manager],” said Lillard on his offseason plans.
Lillard, a six-time NBA All-Star and First-Team All-NBA member, is currently away with Team USA preparing for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics; he addressed the rumors of his impending departure from Portland after the USA camp finished Friday practice, stating the reports were “not true.”
Lillard has been the main figure in Portland for most of his career despite coming in as a rather unheralded prospect from Weber State, a public university in Utah. He has been the focus of trade talks for a few years since he entered his prime, though he has remained loyal to his franchise; however, the tides may be turning for the Blazers’ star.
“We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver [Nuggets] team that I felt we should have beat,” said Lillard in an interview with Chris Haynes, Senior NBA Insider for Yahoo Sports and TNT sideline reporter. “I was like, ‘Man, this just isn’t going to work.’”
The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs eight straight years but have only reached the Conference Finals one time, where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. Portland has failed to attract high-profile free agents to join Lillard and company during his tenure as their point guard, which has been a source of frustration for fans of the team and basketball as a whole.
The nine-year veteran has garnered a reputation as one of the two most clutch players in the league, sharing the title with Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets. Operating under the aliases “Dame Dolla” or simply “Dame,” the multiple-time All-Star is known for tapping the imaginary watch on his wrist in crucial moments to signify that it is “Dame Time.”
He has had career-defining moments in the clutch, including a 37-foot side-step buzzer-beating three, giving him 50 points on the evening, that ended an opening-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2019 NBA playoffs. Recently, he went for 55 points, 10 assists, and 12 three-pointers in Game Five against the Denver Nuggets, a game, and series that the Blazers went onto lose. Lillard became the first player in NBA history to score 55 points, dish 10 assists, and make at least 10 threes in one game, regular season or postseason.
“We have positive seasons; we just don’t end up with a championship,” said Lillard of the Blazers. “So I feel like, at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been.
If Dame’s uncharacteristic openness and acknowledgment that he could be on the move are indicative of an offseason move, there will be suitors lining up around the corner. Lillard is an undisputed top-two point guard in the NBA— top-three if James Harden is included in the list— and could be a key piece for any franchise in basketball.
The Lakers have been encouraged by fans on social media to pursue Lillard and Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal to join their star forward pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis; adding Lillard would provide them with an isolation scorer at guard, reminiscent of James’ partnership with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, and give them a player that can get buckets in bunches as well as anyone in basketball.
The Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, faces an interesting situation in Dallas; his longtime head coach walked away in the offseason, and Kristaps Porzingis looks more of a hindrance than a help with his $158,253,000 contract. Finding a package to bring Lillard to Northeast Texas would form a team entirely built on isolation play between its guards, which they have been marginally successful at with Luka Doncic as a lone perimeter act.
The Heat have been at the center of many conversations for disgruntled guards, recently acquiring Victor Oladipo to add to a team that already had Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, another Team USA starter. Lillard’s unassuming but ruthless personality would match Miami’s culture perfectly, though they would have to part with many of their young assets to pull off a trade.
Details will soon be revealed as the puzzle to Lillard’s future is pieced together, but regardless, the Blazers should expect their phone to be ringing off the hook as teams line up for one of the best guards in today’s game.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.