The Damian Lillard trade saga began on July 1 when news broke that the long-time Trail Blazers point guard asked to leave Portland.
Things took another turn when it was reported that Lillard’s preferred destination was the Miami Heat. Next, it became Miami, and only Miami.
There have been a few additions to the story – mainly that the Blazers have no interest in adding Heat guard Tyler Herro to their already crowded young backcourt, necessitating the help of a third team to get a trade done – but other than that, it’s been mostly mock trades and scuttlebutt.
General manager Joe Cronin and the Trail Blazers front office don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to finalize a deal, and they shouldn’t be. Portland needs to get a superstar return for one of the best players in franchise history and a future Hall of Fame point guard coming off the best offensive season of his career.
As Cronin said via The Athletic (subscription required) at the Las Vegas NBA Summer League: “We’re going to do what’s best for our team. We’re going to see how this lands. And if it takes months, it takes months.’’
It’s true that Dame is 33 years old and on a massive contract, but for a team like Miami – or even Boston, Philadelphia or the Los Angeles Clippers – Lillard could be the difference between contender and NBA champion.
So should Cronin’s words come true and this does drag on for months, perhaps even into the 2023-24 regular season, what could change, if anything?
Are the Blazers dragging this out in the hopes that Lillard has a change of heart?
There hasn’t been any mention of reconciliation between Dame and the Portland organization since the trade demand became public on July 1. It’s been back-and-forth media posturing between the Trail Blazers and Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin.
The idea that Portland has been “unmotivated to engage” in trade talks has been a running report.
But do the Trail Blazers have an additional motive in their slow-playing of any potential trade? According to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald via the Heat Check podcast, Portland may be hoping Lillard eventually changes his mind and decides to stay with the only NBA franchise he’s ever known:
"“I don’t even know if I buy it 100 percent, but someone that has knowledge of what’s going on, they’re not even convinced that Portland wants to trade Damian Lillard at this point. It almost feels like they’re trying to find a way to maybe change his mind or delay this and see if Dame goes, ‘Well, I’ll just be part of this.’“Some people think that maybe Portland is trying to salvage this.”— Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald on the Damian Lillard trade situation"
Is that a realistic scenario? Meh. Maybe there’s a 5 percent chance Lillard changes his mind?
Maybe, if he is still a Blazer at the start of the regular season (that part isn’t impossible), he sees something in Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe that makes him think twice. Maybe he sees Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic again (if they’re still around) and thinks, “You know what. Let’s give this another shot.”
The Kevin Durant-Brooklyn Nets situation is the ideal outcome for Portland. Durant requested a trade and the Nets held out until they got what they wanted, which didn’t come until the trade deadline in the form of one of the most massive trade packages in NBA history.
That type of dance between Lillard and the Blazers isn’t impossible. But the idea that he changes his mind completely and plays the rest of his career in Portland a la Kobe Bryant and the Lakers? It’s incredibly unlikely, but stranger things have happened in the NBA.