Anfernee Simons

Chauncey Billups Discusses Challenges Created By Damian Lillard’s Trade Demand

Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups talked extensively about Damian Lillard‘s trade request and how it has affected the team in an interview with Steve Aschburner of

No significant progress has been made on a Lillard deal since he asked Portland’s front office to move him in early July. He hasn’t relented on his desire to leave, which means Billups can’t be certain what his roster will ultimately look like with training camp less than two weeks away.

“Obviously it’s unsettling, it’s difficult,” Billups said. “But for me, all I can do, I’m responsible for giving my best to who we have. I don’t know how it’s going to play out. There’s nothing I can do to control it. But I do know who we have on our team right now and who I’ve been working with this summer. Who I’m excited about. All I can really do is pour myself into our guys. And see what happens whenever that happens. I’m excited about Shaedon (Sharpe’s) progress. And coaching Scoot (Henderson) and Ant (Anfernee Simons).

“Figuring out what happens with Dame? Everybody knows how I feel about Dame and my opportunity to coach him. We’ll just see. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ll be ready to do the best I can.”

Unlike other stars who have asked to be traded, the demand hasn’t affected Lillard’s popularity, as the Portland fan base recognizes the loyalty he has shown to the franchise over the past 11 years. Billups doesn’t believe Lillard wants to do anything to hurt the organization, adding that Blazers fans will continue to cheer for him wherever he goes.

“Dame is one of the most stable human beings I’ve ever been around,” Billups added. “He’s not about any type of drama. So this whole process probably weighs very heavy on him. It’s just not who he is. But he’s at a crossroads in his career, and he’s doing what he feels is best for him and his family. I’m always going to be supportive of that.”

Billups touches on several other subjects during the interview, including:

Expectations for Henderson, who is among the favorites to win Rookie of the Year:

“Scoot is going to be a star in this league. He plays both sides of the floor with ferocity. He is very, very driven. He’s a play-maker, he’s a real point guard. Got some leadership about him. He looks like he’s the starting safety of the Denver Broncos. He’s going to be an exciting player for the whole world to watch but our fan base, they can rest assured they’ll be entertained.”

Reasons for optimism about Sharpe after a promising rookie season:

“The steps he made last year. If you watched him at the end, he was lights out. I think he’s worked very hard since then to get better. It was a small sample size, but he was playing against a lot of those teams’ No. 1 defensive player. He was getting some tough coverages and he still was getting things done. I was very impressed with him.”

Jerami Grant‘s role after getting a new five-year, $160MM contract:

“I think Jerami fits in perfectly to what we’re doing. He’s a guy who loves to play the game. Unselfish, both offensively and defensively. Plays fast. Wants to play the right way. He’s going to be perfect for our young guys. He’s excited as well to be back.”

Heat Notes: Jovic, World Cup, Lillard, Giannis

The Heat have been counting on a productive summer from Nikola Jovic after back issues disrupted his rookie season, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The 27th pick in the 2022 draft displayed flashes of talent, but physical concerns limited him to 15 games, plus seven short appearances in the playoffs.

Coach Eric Spoelstra said the organization put Jovic on a rehab and weight-training program to get him ready for the offseason. He was impressive during Summer League and now is one of the leaders of Serbia’s World Cup team.

“This is exactly the type of summer and offseason that he needed, to be able to play, to be able to participate in all of our Summer League practices and play in those Summer League games against high-level competition,” Spoelstra said. “And we didn’t know necessarily how the Serbian team would shake out. And it’s turned out to be marvelous for him.”

The absence of Nikola Jokic and Vasilije Micic, along with an injury to Filip Petrusev, means Serbia will need more production from Jovic, who scored nine points in 24 minutes in Saturday’s win over China. The Serbians are playing in Manila, which puts Jovic close to Spoelstra, an assistant coach with Team USA.

“He’s getting a great opportunity,” Spoelstra said. “They had about a two-and-half-, three-week training camp, with the exhibition games included. He’s been able to play in all of those games. We were able to send our staff out and see a week of his training camp. And we’re in the same place right now. He’s only about five, 10 miles away — with traffic that could end up being about 45 minutes. But we are definitely getting together while we’re out here.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • The World Cup experience gives Spoelstra a chance to connect with some of the NBA’s best young players, Winderman points out in a separate story. There have been plenty of cases where relationships built in international competitions spilled over to the NBA, with the Heat benefiting from the most famous example of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who played together in the 2008 Olympics.
  • If Damian Lillard isn’t dealt to Miami before training camp starts, the Trail Blazers could turn into a “circus” with the young backcourt of Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons uncertain of what their roles will be, Winderman states in a mailbag column. He also suggests that the Heat may be better than expected without a Lillard trade, as Tyler Herro will enter camp fully healthy and will be joined by free agent additions Josh Richardson and Thomas Bryant, rookie Jaime Jaquez and a better version of Jovic.
  • As the Lillard standoff continues, the Heat may be preparing for another waiting game involving Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Winderman writes in another piece. In a recent interview, Antetokounmpo said he’ll wait until next summer to decide on an extension and wouldn’t commit to a long-term future in Milwaukee.

Northwest Notes: Yurtseven, Edwards, Thunder, Simons

Omer Yurtseven tells Semih Tuna of Eurohoops that he received interest from two Turkish teams before deciding to sign with the Jazz last month. The 25-year-old center, who spent his first two seasons with Miami, said he wants to try to establish himself in the NBA before giving consideration to playing in his native country.

Fenerbahce and Anadolu Efes were interested,” Yurtseven said. “Fenerbahce is my home, and I also love Erdem Can, my former coach, but even if I wanted to come here towards the end of my career, now is not the time.”

Yurtseven, who is spending this summer with the Turkish national team, became an unrestricted free agent when the Heat opted not to give him a qualifying offer. He had a promising rookie year, but was limited to nine games last season after undergoing ankle surgery. He’s happy to get a chance to start over in Utah.

Having coach Will Hardy at Utah Jazz, playing with Europeans in significant positions, and being a young team, I couldn’t see any negatives, so it was an easy choice among my top three preferences,” Yurtseven said.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Edwards believes the Timberwolves would been much better if not for a calf injury that forced Karl-Anthony Towns to miss most of the season, per Sam Yip of HoopsHype. “I think if we get KAT for a whole season, we’ll be all right,” Edwards said. He added that the trade for Mike Conley in February brought a much-needed veteran presence to the team and expressed delight that Minnesota was able to reach an extension with Naz Reid.
  • In a mailbag column, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman projects the Thunder‘s 15-man roster for opening night. Mussatto expects Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jack White, TyTy Washington and Victor Oladipo to all be waived at some point.
  • Anfernee Simons expressed support for Trail Blazers teammate Damian Lillard to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian (Twitter link). Asked what it would be like to lose his mentor in a potential trade, Simons responded, “A lot of people ask me that question all the time, obviously, like what’s going on with Dame. I say, ‘They say he asked for a trade, he asked for a trade.’ That was it. Obviously, me and Dame have a close relationship. I’m always going to support him no matter what.”

Scoot Henderson: “I Will Win Rookie Of The Year”

After being selected third overall in the 2023 NBA draft, Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson is confident that he’ll have a big rookie season in Portland.

“My goal, obviously, is to win Rookie of the Year,” Henderson told Playmaker (YouTube link). “And I will win Rookie of the Year. … My goals for the season are to help win a lot of games, to embrace the position I’m in, to embrace my role on the team, to be a great listener, and watching film and applying it to the next game.”

Henderson’s assertion that he’ll be the 2023/24 Rookie of the Year is just one of the lofty goals he expressed during the Playmaker interview. He also said he wants to eventually “be remembered as the best point guard to ever play the game.”

Henderson’s professional career got off to a promising start at the Las Vegas Summer League, where he put up 15 points, six assists, and five rebounds in just 21 minutes before exiting the Trail Blazers’ first game due to a shoulder injury. There’s no indication that he won’t be fully healthy by the time training camp begins this fall.

Still, before he begins chasing his most ambitious career goals, Henderson may have to achieve a more modest one: cracking Portland’s starting lineup. Even if Damian Lillard is traded, Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe appear to be the favorites to open the season as the starters in the Blazers’ backcourt, a league source tells Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

Of course, Henderson figures to have a major role even if he’s coming off the bench, and it’s possible he’ll show enough this fall that it will be impossible for the club to keep him out of its starting five.

Henderson also figures to face stiff competition in the ’23/24 Rookie of the Year race. The betting favorite is No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama, while last year’s No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren is also considered a strong contender for the award.

Trade Rumors: Harden, Bogdanovic, Mavs, Zion, Blazers

Although James Harden hasn’t backed off the trade request he made in June, there’s no indication that the Sixers are on the verge of dealing the former MVP, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said during an appearance on NBA Today on Tuesday (YouTube link).

“(Harden and the Sixers) have spoken again, and he still reiterated he wants to be traded,” Shelburne said. “Now, this isn’t a demand, it’s a request. I think the Sixers have said, ‘Okay, we will try to trade you,’ but there is no hurry to do this. I think the Sixers understand that they have the leverage here. James has picked up his option… He’s going to be a free agent after this season, so at some point he needs to play, whether that’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere.”

The situation in Philadelphia, as Shelburne portrays it, isn’t acrimonious. While Harden would prefer to play elsewhere, it’s not necessarily a sure thing that he’ll be wearing another uniform when the 2023/24 season begins.

“There is a sense that if they can give it some time – and he’s cool with his teammates, he’s been talking to Joel Embiid, he’s been talking to Patrick Beverley, P.J. Tucker – that eventually maybe those fences can be mended, and there is a path to reconciliation with James Harden,” Shelburne said. “But for now, he has reiterated his trade request.”

Here are a few more trade-related items from around the NBA:

  • In the latest episode of his Howdy Partners podcast (YouTube link; hat tip to The Smoking Cuban), ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said he has “heard some rumblings” about the Mavericks circling back to Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who was linked to Dallas prior to the draft. MacMahon cautions that he’s not sure the Mavs have the assets to land Bogdanovic, given Detroit’s high asking price, and suggests Dallas’ priority may be to trade for a starting-caliber center.
  • According to Jake Madison of Locked on Pelicans (Twitter link), Chris Haynes of TNT said on a TV broadcast last Friday that league executives got the sense this offseason that Pelicans forward Zion Williamson could be had “for the right situation and the right package.” However, sources have told Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link) that New Orleans wasn’t prepared to “pivot away” from Williamson on draft day, and ESPN’s Andrew Lopez said in the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link) that the Pelicans’ trade offers for the No. 2 and No. 3 picks in this year’s draft were heavily based around future picks, not players.
  • Within that same story, Lowe says he hasn’t heard compelling evidence that a “sensible” trade was available for the Trail Blazers with the No. 3 overall pick last month. The Nets never showed any interest in giving up Mikal Bridges for a package based around the No. 3 pick and Anfernee Simons, according to Lowe, who says the Heat “chuckled” at the idea of Portland asking for Bam Adebayo. The Raptors also weren’t ready to move off of Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby as of draft day, Lowe adds, though it’s unclear if the Blazers would have moved the No. 3 pick in a deal for either player.

Trade Rumors: LaVine, Garland, Rockets, Clippers, Blazers, Bucks

The Bulls have engaged with “several” teams about the possibility of a Zach LaVine trade this offseason, but haven’t gotten serious about moving the high-scoring guard, reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

As Fischer explains, LaVine’s pricey long-term contract will make potential trade partners wary about giving up a substantial package of players and draft picks, but the Bulls would be seeking a return that far outweighs what Washington got for Bradley Beal last week.

Fischer names the Knicks and Mavericks as possible teams to watch for LaVine, but immediately throws cold water on the likelihood of either club emerging as a legitimate suitor in the near future. New York seems to be taking a more patient approach to building its roster, according to Fischer, who adds that Dallas was viewed as a more serious threat for LaVine before acquiring Kyrie Irving as a co-star for Luka Doncic.

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • Despite some speculation to the contrary, the Cavaliers haven’t had any discussions about trading Darius Garland and have no intention to move the All-Star point guard, sources tell Chris Fedor of (Twitter link). The Cavs appear focused on pursuing roster moves that don’t involve trading any of their four cornerstone players (Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen).
  • In addition to Kenyon Martin Jr., the Rockets have gauged potential trade interest in young players like Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher, sources tell Fischer.
  • Norman Powell and Marcus Morris have both been mentioned in recent days as trade candidates. According to Fischer, the Clippers have been canvassing the league to see what a package of both players might return.
  • No clear suitors have emerged for guard Anfernee Simons, who looks like the Trail Blazers‘ most obvious trade chip, says Fischer. According to Fischer, the Blazers and Cavaliers had some brief talks about Nassir Little prior to the draft, but didn’t gain any real traction toward a deal.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the latest episode of his Lowe Post podcast that the Bucks had some “relatively serious” internal conversations about John Collins before he was dealt to Utah. “I do think Milwaukee is looking around for, like, ‘Can we get a little injection of randomness? (An) injection of, like, bounce and athleticism, and just change?'” Lowe said. “Maybe just change more than anything else. But I don’t think (the Collins interest) went anywhere serious.”

And-Ones: Whitmore, Mavs, Blazers, Summer League, CBA

In conversations with sources around the NBA, John Hollinger of The Athletic noticed two reasons being frequently cited to explain Cam Whitmore‘s draft-night slide from possible top-five pick to being selected at No. 20 by the Rockets.

According to Hollinger, some teams red-flagged Whitmore’s medicals due to concerns about his knees. Clubs were also underwhelmed by his pre-draft workouts and interviews, with one source who spoke to Hollinger using the descriptor “comatose.”

Within his post-draft wrap-up, Hollinger also praised the Mavericks for the modest price they paid to move off Davis Bertans‘ contract in one salary-dump trade (moving down from No. 10 to 12) relative to the nice return they got for accepting Richaun Holmes‘ contract in a second salary-dump deal (the No. 24 pick, which became Olivier-Maxence Prosper).

Additionally, Hollinger believes the Trail Blazers no longer need to “cower in fear” about the possibility of Damian Lillard requesting a trade, since the duo of Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe looks like the team’s backcourt of the future and is a strong foundation to build around. Whatever happens with Lillard going forward figures to have a ripple effect on Anfernee Simons, according to Hollinger, who notes that it’s probably untenable to have Simons making $20MM per year in Portland as a fourth guard.

Here are more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • Assuming they suit up in Las Vegas, the top two picks in the draft will go head-to-head on the first day of the Vegas Summer League. As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes, the Spurs (Victor Wembanyama) and Hornets (Brandon Miller) are scheduled to face one another on July 7. Reynolds also provides details on some of the other most notable matchups on the newly announced Summer League schedule.
  • Breaking down the restrictions that teams above the NBA’s new second tax apron will face beginning next offseason, cap expert Albert Nahmad tweets that those clubs won’t be permitted to trade for a player who was previously acquired via sign-and-trade.
  • While details on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement keep trickling out publicly and teams have seen the term sheet, the NBA has yet to distribute the full CBA to clubs, tweets Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. The CBA set to take effect when the new league year begins next Saturday (July 1), so the league is taking it down to the wire. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), the NBA had hoped to have the CBA completed in full by Monday of this week.

Blazers Rumors: No. 3 Pick, Lillard, Adebayo, George, Zion

Like his ESPN colleague Jonathan Givony, Brian Windhorst has been hearing that the Trail Blazers haven’t been enamored with the trade offers they’ve been getting for the No. 3 pick in this Thursday’s draft. Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up on Tuesday (YouTube link), Windhorst discussed the situation in Portland and how it could affect star guard Damian Lillard.

“In discussions with teams in the last couple of days, the Blazers have started to maybe indicate that they won’t trade the No. 3 pick and that they may end up deciding to draft a player there, whether it be Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller, because they aren’t necessarily in love with the options they’re getting offer for No. 3,” Windhorst said.

As Windhorst notes, Lillard has repeatedly expressed his loyalty to the Trail Blazers, but he has also spoken in recent months about not wanting to be part of a rebuild in Portland and his hope that the team can add impact veterans.

“I checked in on the Lillard side of things about whether or not there’d been a change of heart there and I was told unequivocally, ‘No,'” Windhorst said. “Dame does not want a youth movement. He wants to play with veterans. He wants the team to upgrade fast and immediately with veteran players that can help him now.”

There are other ways besides trading the No. 3 pick for the Blazers to add veteran talent this summer, Windhorst acknowledges, so if Portland keeps and uses its lottery pick on Thursday, that doesn’t necessarily mean Lillard will immediately make a trade request.

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports makes this point too, writing in his latest story that the Blazers “view this entire offseason as their canvas” to upgrade their roster around Lillard and don’t necessarily feel it has to happen entirely during the draft. For now, it still appears that Dame’s preference is to remain in Portland and that the club hasn’t shown any willingness to discuss trading Lillard, says Fischer.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Portland is preparing what the front office considers a “compelling” offer for Heat big man Bam Adebayo, a source tells Fischer. While that may be true, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Miami would accept such a deal, given that the Heat view Adebayo as a long-term cornerstone and want to acquire Lillard themselves rather than help the Blazers keep him. For what it’s worth, Fischer suggests that any Portland offer for Adebayo would almost certainly have to include Shaedon Sharpe in addition to the No. 3 pick and Anfernee Simons to even get Miami to think about it.
  • While Adebayo may not be attainable, he’s the sort of “premium” player the Trail Blazers are targeting in talks involving their lottery pick, Fischer writes, naming Clippers forward Paul George as another example of a player the team would like to land.
  • League sources tell Fischer that the Blazers don’t “truly covet” either of the Raptors forwards they’ve been linked to (Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby) in a deal for the No. 3 selection. Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns also aren’t considered legitimate targets, Fischer adds.
  • The Blazers and Pelicans have discussed Zion Williamson, per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, but New Orleans hasn’t made a formal offer involving Williamson and may want more than just the No. 3 pick for him, per Fischer.

Trade Rumors: Lillard, Simons, Ayton, Beal, Nets

With the draft less than a week away, the Trail Blazers continue to focus on trying to acquire pieces to complement Damian Lillard rather than seeking a trade involving their franchise point guard, according to reports from veteran basketball journalists Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst.

Stein wrote on Friday at Substack that Portland continues to convey a willingness to package the No. 3 overall pick with guard Anfernee Simons in a deal for win-now talent. Windhorst, meanwhile, said on ESPN’s Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link) that the Blazers are trying to get creative as they seek roster upgrades.

“Portland is trying some pretty aggressive moves, from what I’ve been able to glean,” Windhorst said (hat tip to RealGM). “I have no idea how accurate everything is, but they are swinging.”

As Stein observes, the teams with interest in acquiring Lillard are hoping the Blazers don’t find a trade they like using their lottery pick. There’s a belief that Dame will consider asking out of Portland if the club simply keeps and uses that No. 3 selection, since he has spoken about wanting to contend for a title.

In that scenario, Windhorst notes, the Blazers would be in a good position to reset their roster, with a couple young players to build around, but he doesn’t get the sense that’s a path the front office is exploring yet.

“They have Shaedon Sharpe… This year they have the No. 3 pick. If they wanted to, they’re primed (to rebuild),” Windhorst said. “They could get a haul for Dame, whatever it is, and they’d have two lottery picks to rebuild around. But that is not the direction that they’re going at all. That is not the intel that I’m (receiving) at all. If that’s being considered, it’s not being discussed outside the family.”

Here are a few more recent NBA trade rumors:

  • Having previously reported that the Suns were expected to gauge Deandre Ayton‘s trade value this offseason, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN indicated during an appearance on the Ryen Russillo Podcast (YouTube video link) that those efforts haven’t been especially fruitful so far. According to Wojnarowski, the trade market for Ayton is “lean,” so Phoenix should prepare for the possibility of bringing back the former No. 1 pick. “They’ve gone through the marketplace and I don’t think there is an obvious deal for Deandre Ayton out there,” Woj said, per RealGM.
  • A rival Eastern general manager tells Sean Deveney of that the Wizards shouldn’t rush into a Bradley Beal trade, even if they intend to reset their roster, since his value is “as low as it has ever been” at the moment. “Right now, you can get him for cap relief but you’re not going to a big package of picks,” the GM said. “They’d be better off waiting, let him get on the floor and let him shine a little bit.”
  • In the latest episode of their #thisleague UNCUT podcast, Stein and Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report both said they’d be surprised if Beal is still with the Wizards at the start of next season. Haynes also added the Nets to the list of teams that may get involved in the Beal sweepstakes if the star guard is open to being sent to Brooklyn.

Trail Blazers Offering No. 3 Pick, Simons In Exchange For Star?

Numerous trade rumors are circulating about Damian Lillard, but league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Trail Blazers are more inclined to keep Lillard and try to build a contender around him.

According to O’Connor, Portland’s front office is exploring deals involving the No. 3 pick in the draft and would be willing to move Anfernee Simons as well. O’Connor names the CelticsJaylen Brown, the RaptorsPascal Siakam and the NetsMikal Bridges as targets that would make sense for that package, but he also cautions that the Blazers might decide to keep their pick.

Simons is coming off his best NBA season, averaging 21.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 62 games. The 24-year-old shooting guard has three seasons left on his four-year, $100MM extension.

The No. 3 pick also carries significant value in a draft that is projected to have three top players. Brandon Miller is widely expected to be taken second by Charlotte, leaving G League star Scoot Henderson available for any team that wants to deal for the third choice. However, Miller and Henderson could easily flip places.

In an interview this week, Lillard identified the Heat and Nets as teams he would be interested in joining if he requests a trade. O’Connor offers a few other suggestions, including the Raptors, who reportedly talked to Portland about an OG Anunoby deal last summer and again before the February deadline. O’Connor also mentions the Grizzlies if they decide to unload Ja Morant or teams rich in draft picks such as the Pelicans, Rockets and Spurs.

Lillard has stated repeatedly that he wants to compete for a championship, and O’Connor believes his best chance to reach that goal is to accept a trade. However, it appears the Blazers are going to make an effort to create an instant contender before they consider that option.