PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It looks like Damian Lillard’s days as a Portland Trail Blazer are coming to an end. On Friday, a slew of reports surfaced about the superstar guard wanting out of Portland, including one that says he wants to be traded to Philadelphia.
According to Quinton Mayo, an NBA reporter who’s an insider for the Washington Wizards, Lillard would like to be traded to the 76ers or the New York Knicks.
TrueHoop.com, an NBA blog, reported that Lillard will request a trade in the coming days.
“Now a source close to Lillard says that in the days to come, he plans to request a trade,” True Hoops’ Henry Abbott wrote. “If this is a surprise, you haven’t been paying attention. As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team.”
While neither of these reports comes from the top NBA insiders like ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski or Shams Charania of The Athletic, they do align with what’s been coming out of Lillard’s camp
Back at the end of June, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reported that the enormous backlash from the Blazers’ process to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built in Portland have become factors that may push him out of the door.
Lillard told Haynes on Friday that he plans to address reports about his future in Portland following Team USA’s practice.
Lillard also said some interesting things to Haynes in the interview.
Here’s a snippet below:
“CH: I have to ask you about your situation with the Trail Blazers. With all you’ve done for the franchise on and off the court, do you feel like that same level of commitment has been reciprocated as far as putting you in position to get your first title?
DL: To make it to the NBA, I had to give it everything I had. I was going to do what needed to be done to win games. I didn’t come into the league worrying about what others were doing in the organization. I didn’t come in with that type of mentality. But I’ve been active in probably 95% of the games in my career. I’ve played through injuries, and I’ve been a part of two rebuilds. I feel like I’ve experienced everything with the Trail Blazers, and I’ve worn that jersey as a badge of honor and with a lot of pride and care. I never felt like my job was to go in and critique what other people were doing in the organization. My job was to make sure the team is functioning and trying to lead them to the best results. I’ve always assumed everybody’s mentality was the same. Even when I’m playing well and we come up short at the end of the season, I go home and the first thing I do is look in the mirror and tell myself we didn’t win a championship. Or if I didn’t play as well as I should have, I’ve had to look in the mirror and tell myself that my performance was unacceptable and I have to do better. And then you go do better.
I think that’s the stage we’re at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organization must look in the mirror because we’ve constantly come up short. We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we’re doing is not working and it’s not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on.
CH: Having known you for years and your position, why is this current juncture such a pivotal moment for you?
DL: There are few reasons: One being I’m not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great. We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, ‘Man, this just isn’t going to work.’ We’re not winning the championship, but we’ve got a successful organization. We’re not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided. We have positive seasons; we just don’t end up with a championship. 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. Just like I hold myself accountable for a bad performance or hold myself accountable to make sure that I work my ass off when I’m training, I must be accountable for saying what needs to be said even if it’s not popular. And that just comes with age. When I was younger, I felt like maybe I’ll be out of place, but I feel like I’ve earned the right to say we must do better. We must do better if we want to win on that level.
OK, that was a lot, but when Lillard said, “I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, ‘Man, this just isn’t going to work.’ We’re not winning the championship, but we’ve got a successful organization,” that reads like a guy who’s done playing for his current franchise.
Granted, he said that he was feeling that way after they got beat by the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, so the feeling might’ve been fresh, but Lillard has been through a ton in Portland. He’s a six-time NBA All-Star and averaged 28.8 points per game, which ranked third in the league this season. He’s been on five All-NBA Teams — one First Team and four Second Team.
He would be going into his 10th year as a Trail Blazer, which is a long time for a superstar of his magnitude to stay with a franchise. He’s basically been as committed to Portland like how Joel Embiid has been committed to Philadelphia.
Speaking of Embiid, the duo of him and Lillard would immediately put the Sixers in title contention. Lillard’s ability to space the floor, working the pick-and-roll, and chuck up shots from pretty much anywhere on the court, would make him and Embiid a pairing that teams around the league lose sleep over.
More importantly, the Sixers can’t continue to waste Embiid’s prime years, especially after coming off a season where he finished second behind Nikola Jokic in MVP voting. Nobody truly knows how long Embiid will stay healthy for — and with his injury history — the Sixers need to maximize his career on the team before it’s too late.
And the Sixers have the assets to get a deal done.
After The Athletic reported that the Sixers “opened up” trade conversations surrounding Ben Simmons, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Daryl Morey, the Sixers’ president of basketball operations “long for Lillard if he is targeting any Trail Blazer.”
SportsLine.com currently has the Sixers as the second favorite team behind the Knicks to trade for Lillard.
— SportsLine (@SportsLine) July 16, 2021
Morey should do whatever he can to acquire Lillard.
It could be the difference between an NBA Finals run or another disappointing finish in the second round of the playoffs.