Reports over the weekend indicated that the Trail Blazers are “open for business everywhere in the league” when it comes to Damian Lillard trade talks and are casting a wide net in an effort to get the best possible return.
However, the star guard has been “unwavering” in his desire to join the Heat, according to Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, who say that Lillard has conveyed to the Blazers that Miami is the only place he wants to play.
Chris Haynes essentially said the same thing in the latest episode of his #thisleague UNCUT podcast with Marc Stein. Asked by Stein if Lillard could be talked into another landing spot or if he’s dead-set on ending up with the Heat, Haynes simply replied, “Miami. Miami, Stein, Miami.”
Shams Charania of The Athletic also says that Lillard’s sole focus is on the Heat, acknowledging that the Blazers are exploring other scenarios but suggesting that there’s a “strong belief” around the league that Miami will be 32-year-old’s ultimate destination.
The two sides both appear at this point to be using media leaks to exercise as much leverage as possible. The Blazers’ discussions with other teams can be viewed as an effort to extract as much value out of the Heat as possible, whereas Lillard’s insistence on being sent to Miami may make other suitors wary of surrendering their top assets to acquire him, knowing that he’d be dissatisfied with the outcome, as Jackson, Chiang, and Charania write.
Here’s more on Lillard:
- In the #thisleague UNCUT podcast, Stein suggested that there’s a widespread belief around the NBA that Sixers guard James Harden will end up being traded to the Clippers. Haynes responded by noting that the Clippers have also been in touch with the Trail Blazers to inquire on Lillard, though he adds that L.A. seems unlikely to acquire Dame.
- The Timberwolves, Pelicans, and Celtics are among the other teams who “reached out to see what it would take” to land Lillard, Haynes reports. A deal with Minnesota would have had to involve Karl-Anthony Towns, according to Haynes, who says that idea was “quickly eliminated.”
- Haynes also spoke on the podcast about the timeline that led to Lillard’s Saturday trade request, explaining that after Portland landed the No. 3 overall pick in the draft lottery, the longtime Blazer was told the team would look into trading it for win-now help. However, GM Joe Cronin called him two days before the draft to let him know Portland would likely keep its pick. In Lillard’s meeting with the Blazers this past Monday, he expressed his feeling that “promises weren’t kept,” per Haynes, but vowed to give the team a little more time to see if it could upgrade the roster on the trade market when free agency opened. When that didn’t happen right away, Lillard submitted his trade request to ensure that teams interested in acquiring him – such as the Heat – didn’t make other moves in free agency that would preclude such a deal.
- According to Haynes, Lillard first entertained the idea of requesting a trade out of Portland in 2021. One of the reasons he decided against it at the time was because the Blazers hired Chauncey Billups, whom Dame greatly respects, as their head coach that summer. As Haynes details, Lillard didn’t want to put Billups in a position like Stephen Silas in Houston — Harden and Russell Westbrook requested trades shortly after Silas was hired in 2020, which derailed the veteran assistant’s first head coaching opportunity.
- In case you missed it, we passed along a couple notes on the Lillard sweepstakes in a trade rumors round-up earlier today.