Loyal to the organization since he entered the league in 2012, Lillard finally grew weary of the franchise’s direction and requested a trade, which became public on July 1. Shortly thereafter, Lillard’s desire to be traded to the Heat became general knowledge.
“I can say that there was [a trade request] and I would just prefer not to speak on the Trail Blazers,” he told Spears.
Lillard hoped that the Blazers would add several impactful veterans to the bench, according to Spears. Lillard’s request came at the start of free agency, after Portland had declined offers for the No. 3 pick in the draft and used it on Scoot Henderson, another point guard.
Lillard wouldn’t budge when asked what motivated him to be dealt.
“I’m not going to speak on the Blazers. It’s lot of love and respect, but I won’t speak on the Blazers,” Lillard said.
It remains to be seen what Lillard would do if he’s not traded before training camp. The guard’s friends and confidants have advised him to sit back and let the process play out.
“The best word of advice is just that, ‘Everything will come to pass,’” Lillard said. “When you in a little bit of a storm, a lot is going on and you’re being talked about, you get a little bit antsy and you feel like you got to react to stuff sometimes, but I know me. I know the type of principle I stand on. I know that I’ve been solid in everything that I’ve done every step of the way.”
The NBA fined James Harden $100K this week for “indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team.” Lillard hasn’t gone that far, but the Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the league the latitude to fine a player up to $150K for making a trade request public.
Of course, that would be a proverbial drop in the bucket for a player who will make $45.64MM next season and nearly $48.8MM in 2024/25 before his two-year, $121.8MM extension kicks in.
What’s paramount for Lillard at this stage of his career is to get a ring.
“I would say the desire for that now is as high as it’s probably going to be. That’s literally the thing at the top of my list,” he said about winning a title. “When I wake up and I got to get up and go do what I got to do, I got to train, I got to make time for my kids, I still got to lift, I got to do all these things and I got to make sure that training and the preparation is still my priority. Even with being a father of three now, not one, and having all these other responsibilities, you need something that you feel pretty strong about to stay committed the way I’ve been committed. It’s as high as it’s going to get. That’s ultimately what I want to experience and that’s what I want to get done.”