As Highkin relays, Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin indicated there’s little reason for Lillard to suit up for the retooling club, even though his recovery is going well. If that’s the case, Lillard’s season ended on New Year’s Eve. He appeared in 29 games this season, averaging 24.0 PPG and 7.3 APG.
Lillard has been consulted on the team’s trades over the past week and the blueprint for the future.
“Damian has been great. He communicates with (head coach) Chauncey (Billups) and I constantly,” Cronin said, per Highkin (Twitter link). “He’s fully caught up with what our plans are and were and is very integral to what our plans are.”
Several other interesting tidbits came out of Portland’s press conference. Here are some of the other highlights:
- Discussing the trade that sent CJ McCollum to the Pelicans, Cronin said, “It was really important to us that CJ separated from us on good terms, and I think we did that” (Twitter link).
- Eric Bledsoe, who was acquired from the Clippers in the deal that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to L.A., won’t be bought out, according to Cronin. Bledsoe’s $19.4MM contract for next season is only partially guaranteed for $3.9MM, so Portland can decide on his future in the offseason. (Twitter link).
- Despite blowing up the roster, Cronin believes the team can attract free agents. “I’m confident that we can be competitive with free agents. With Chauncey Billups, Damian Lillard and myself, we can get into meetings and we’re not afraid to go after players.” (Twitter link).
- The front office felt the team could no longer compete for a title with the previous roster, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. “It had become evident to us that the roster had plateaued,” Cronin said. “It was a team that was built to fit a specific coaching style and a style of play that we didn’t feel was conducive to the way Chauncey and myself wanted to play. With that, we were capped out, we were looking at a team that would have been in the luxury tax by $15 million next season with not many ways to improve.”
- Luxury tax concerns were a major focus in each of Portland’s trades, particularly the blockbuster with the Clippers. “The deal was important for us because it got us out of the luxury tax this year, which completely reset our repeater clock, meaning we don’t go back in, even if we’re in the tax in future seasons, until at least 2025,” Cronin said. “And the trade also gave us a bunch of leverage in the next deals that we needed to make where teams would no longer hold getting us out of the luxury tax as a part of the negotiation. So that was a good deal for us.”
- President of business operations Dewayne Hankins said Cronin is a serious candidate for the permanent GM position, Highkin tweets. “Ownership is still in the process of an equitable search. Joe is obviously a candidate for it, and he has the keys to do what he needs to do.”