Joe Cronin

Trail Blazers Ready To Move On From Damian Lillard Era

After an 11-year partnership between Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers, the two sides moved on this offseason with a trade that sent one of the franchise’s all-time best players to the Bucks. Now, following years of attempts to compete, Portland looks completely different, with players like Scoot Henderson, Deandre Ayton and Shaedon Sharpe heading up its young core.

While Lillard occupied most of the spotlight, general manager Joe Cronin made plenty of headlines during the time in which Lillard’s request seemed in limbo, The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver writes. Media members and fans alike drew different conclusions regarding Cronin, Golliver details, with some accusing Cronin of not sending Lillard to his then-preferred destination of Miami “out of spite” and others calling him a “liar” for drafting Henderson instead of trading the draft pick for a contender. To add fuel to the fire, Lillard didn’t thank Cronin in his lengthy farewell letter to Portland.

[Lillard] and I went through it this summer,” Cronin said. “It wasn’t always amicable and perfect. To be omitted from that [letter], I didn’t take as anything more than it being a hard summer that we had both gone through. I wasn’t one to be thanked at that moment. … Our directions didn’t line up. Things didn’t work out. We had pure intentions in our desire to build a winner around him. We were just unable to pull it off. I don’t think that was a lie. We just couldn’t get it done.

One of the most overlooked aspects of the Lillard trade is how it affected local marketing, Golliver explains. Season ticket holders had to make decisions to renew or not and promoters had to make the decision on which players on the team to highlight. Even before Lillard was traded, the Blazers began to turn the page, Golliver writes, moving to feature Henderson and the young core and removing Lillard entirely from promo material.

We really need to move on,” Trail Blazers president of business operations Dewayne Hankins said in a Zoom call. “We’ve got great young talent. We’re not like other rebuilding teams who don’t have a strong core of young players. It’s time to turn the page.

Fans came around to Lillard’s exit, according to Golliver, and season ticket holders renewed at a 93% rate, up six percentage points last year.

We wanted to honor Dame’s trade request,” Hankins said. “If we promote him, are we being true to our fans? That was the moment when we started saying that this was a new era. It’s really hard to lose a legend like Damian whose number will go in the rafters as soon as possible. At the same time, I think we’re prepared. Our next step is getting our fans to fall in love with these guys.

Even though Cronin didn’t trade Lillard to the Heat, he believes he did right by the star guard by sending him to a contender, according to Golliver. Hankins said his staff is still mulling the right way to honor the guard, Golliver writes, including the possibility of a statue outside Portland’s arena, Moda Center.

We’ve retired a lot of numbers,” Hankins said. “We’ve had the conversation: Is there another level of honor that we need to create for him?

The Blazers still have work to do in completing their rebuild, but they’re as high as possible on Henderson, Anfernee Simons and Sharpe taking the reins left by Lillard at the guard spot, according to Golliver. I highly recommend reading Golliver’s piece in full, as there’s some fascinating perspective and quotes from high-ranking Blazers officials inside.

Celtics Notes: Holiday, Mazzulla, Gabriel, Redick

Celtics owners, front office members and even Hall of Famers were raving about Jrue Holiday‘s performance Wednesday in his first practice with the team, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said the energy reminded him of the first practice session after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were acquired in 2007. Co-owner Steve Pagliuca said Paul Pierce told him he had never seen anything to match Holiday’s intensity, then Pagliuca offered a few superlatives of his own.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen Jaylen Brown be stopped going to the hoop with a full head of steam, and he just ran right into Jrue,” Pagliuca said. “And that was it. It was incredible. One of the most incredible things I’ve seen in practice.”

Pagliuca added that the organization has been enamored with Holiday for years and had been hoping he would eventually become available. That opportunity arose after he was sent to Portland last week in the Damian Lillard trade, and the Celtics were determined that they wouldn’t be outbid when the Trail Blazers put him back on the market. Holiday said that as soon as the trade was finalized, Boston coach Joe Mazzulla sent him video clips of the team’s pick-and-roll coverages and offensive sets.

“From the beginning, (Mazzulla’s) told me my role is to do everything,” Holiday said. “Do everything, be all over the floor defensively, be able to control situations offensively, situations to calm us down and get good shots toward the end of games. But I think when it comes down to it, it’s about winning. It’s about keeping this culture of winning and Joe’s a part of that and the way he’s communicated with me has been awesome.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Holiday told reporters that the Celtics have already had discussions with him about a contract extension and are hoping to reach an agreement on a long-term deal as soon as he becomes eligible, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Holiday credits Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin for helping him get to a place where he wanted to be, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Portland blessed me,” Holiday said. “Joe Cronin did a great job of communicating with me on how I wanted to proceed. … Working with him was very easy, very seamless, and made all of this possible.”
  • Wenyen Gabriel, who signed with the Celtics on Tuesday, hopes to provide an answer to the team’s need for frontcourt depth, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Gabriel isn’t guaranteed a roster spot, but he believes he can provide what the team needs. “I’m not thinking they’re expecting me to do anything new that’s out of the character of what I’ve already done in terms of bringing energy, toughness, getting us extra possessions, being able to switch, being versatile out there, running the floor, being athletic, blocking shots,” Gabriel said. “There’s a lot of different things I can do defensively, being a good help defender. So there’s a lot of things that I already do as a player.”
  • Former NBA guard JJ Redick revealed on his podcast that the Celtics offered him a job as an assistant coach last September and again when Damon Stoudamire left in March, relays Brian Robb of MassLive.

Blazers Notes: Ayton, Lillard, Brogdon, Grant, Sharpe

Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups is thrilled about the team’s acquisition of Deandre Ayton and believes the former No. 1 overall pick will benefit from a change of scenery, he said on Monday, per Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter link).

“I always have a unique perspective because of my playing career,” said Billups, who played for four teams in his first five NBA seasons before finding a long-term home in Detroit. “Sometimes it’s just time for a change. I think that was probably what happened with him (in Phoenix). For me, I’m really excited about DA. He’s already a top-five center in the league and there are so many levels he can get to. We’ve got to help him reach his potential. That’s my responsibility as a coach.”

As Vincent Goodwill writes for Yahoo Sports, the Trail Blazers believe Ayton still has a ton of potential and view him as a talented offensive player capable of playing winning basketball.

The 25-year-old appears to be just as excited about his new home as Portland is to acquire him, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. As Fentress writes, in a social media video of Ayton’s first visit to the Blazers’ facility after the trade, the big man said he was “so glad to be here,” adding that he feels like he “just got drafted.”

“I’m at an organization that wants me and wants me to succeed,” Ayton said on media day on Monday, per Fentress (Twitter link). “So, there’s a lot more passion when you feel that mentally and you know you’ve seen that physically as well. So, there’ll be a lot more grit and a lot more domination.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • A report in the wake of the Damian Lillard trade suggested that the star guard – realizing he likely wouldn’t end up in Miami – asked general manager Joe Cronin last month if he could withdraw his trade request and return to Portland, and Cronin told him no. Asked today about that claim, Cronin offered his version of events: “I told him I personally thought it was a bad idea. The trade request had not been rescinded” (Twitter link via Highkin).
  • After trading away Lillard and Jrue Holiday, the Blazers don’t sound like they’re rushing back to the market to move Malcolm Brogdon. “We want to have Malcolm come here and be a part of this,” Cronin said on Monday, per Highkin (Twitter link). “He can bring some good on-court intangibles for us and also as a veteran, which is something we’re going to need. We have a very young roster. I want to make sure there’s enough veteran leadership around these guys.”
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype listed a handful of potential trade partners for the Trail Blazers if they do decide to deal Brogdon.
  • Veteran Blazers forward Jerami Grant, who signed a new five-year, $160MM contract with the club in July, admitted it was “definitely a shock” to realize he won’t be playing with Lillard going forward but said that it’s “part of the business” and that he’s comfortable moving forward with the current group. “Joe and (Blazers owner) Jody (Allen) have been doing a great job,” Grant said (Twitter link via Highkin). “I’m fine.”
  • With Lillard gone, there may be an opening for young wing Shaedon Sharpe to move into the Blazers’ starting lineup, but he said on Monday that he’s not worried about whether he starts or whether he ends up playing at the two or three, according to Highkin (Twitter links). “It doesn’t really matter to me, for real,” he said. Sharpe also told reporters that he expects to play for Team Canada in the 2024 Olympics.

More Details On The Three-Team Lillard Blockbuster

The Bucks were interested in acquiring Damian Lillard immediately after he made his trade request on July 1, but the deal didn’t start to come together until this past Sunday.

As Adrian Wojnarowski writes in an in-depth story for ESPN (Insider link), Bucks general manager Jon Horst told Trail Blazers GM Joe Cronin from the outset that their talks had to remain a secret or Milwaukee would withdraw from negotiations.

According to Wojnarowski, Horst didn’t want Jrue Holiday to be involved in any trade rumors, or used as leverage by Cronin with other teams to increase offers for Lillard. The Bucks didn’t want to disrupt their chemistry and hold Holiday in very high regard. That meant Cronin was unable to gauge Holiday’s market value before agreeing to the trade.

As Wojnarowski details, Horst told Cronin that the only way a deal would work is if the Blazers took their time fielding offers and eventually circled back to Milwaukee for one-on-one talks. That started Sunday evening, with both sides feeling like they had reached a breakthrough.

Cronin was determined to say patient and accept the best possible offer, per Woj, and kept details of Lillard negotiations hidden from prying eyes. Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, was determined to steer him to Miami, but Lillard didn’t have much leverage. Wojnarowski strongly suggests Cronin felt the need to keep things private from Goodwin in case he tried to tank trade talks with non-Heat teams.

One of the most fascinating and “delicate” parts of the deal was Phoenix’s involvement. According to Wojnarowski, the Blazers and Suns had the outline of a trade together for months — Deandre Ayton to Portland for Jusuf Nurkic. Cronin wanted to tie that agreement into any Lillard trade, so throughout the offseason he kept circling back to the Suns.

However, as Wojnarowski writes, due to Milwaukee’s insistence on secrecy, Cronin was unable to tell Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein the final details until the last minute. According to Woj, Phoenix knew it was getting Nurkic, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson from the Blazers in a three-team deal, but the Suns wanted another asset in return.

Cronin was unable to tell the Suns who that player was — or who he played for. Cronin did tell the Suns the mystery player’s position and gave an approximation of his salary, and Phoenix was able to deduce it was either Thunder guard Victor Oladipo or Bucks guard Grayson Allen.

Only on Wednesday afternoon — just before the trade was made public — did Cronin confirm that it was Allen, whom the Suns had reportedly been interested in for several months. According to Wojnarowski, Bartelstein, GM James Jones and owner Mat Ishbia quickly discussed and then agreed to the deal.

The Blazers were happy and relieved to have completed the deal, per Woj, and believed they did right by Lillard by sending him to a contender, even if it wasn’t his preferred destination. Shortly thereafter, Cronin was bombarded by calls inquiring about Holiday, who is now the hottest name on the trade block.

Wojnarowki’s full story is definitely worth reading in full if you subscribe to ESPN+.

Details On Damian Lillard’s “Messy” Exit From Portland

Multiple reporters have cited sources who said the Trail Blazers hadn’t discussed a Damian Lillard trade with the Heat — Lillard’s preferred landing spot — since July.

According to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, the last dialogue the two sides had was a phone call at Summer League between Blazers GM Joe Cronin and Heat GM Andy Elisburg. Miami wanted to set up an in-person meeting in Las Vegas to have further discussions, but it never transpired, per Haynes.

How this summer played out behind the scenes definitely left a sour taste in my mouth,” Lillard told Haynes. “But it doesn’t change the amazing experiences I’ve had with the Trail Blazers and this city. I’ll always cherish this place. This is my home. I’ll always live here regardless.”

The situation became acrimonious almost immediately, as the Blazers felt Lillard’s trade request had put them at a negotiating disadvantage, while Miami believed Portland was acting out of emotion instead of understanding the league is a business, Haynes writes.

Following a lengthy period of inactivity, Aaron Goodwin, Lillard’s agent, suggested that Cronin meet with Lillard in the event that the longtime star returned to the team.

As Haynes details, at the meeting on September 5, Lillard expressed his disappointment with the situation and wondered why there hadn’t been any communication between Portland and Miami. He didn’t want to be traded anywhere else and noted that he’d been willing to sacrifice for the team.

Specifically, Haynes cites sources who say the Blazers asked Lillard to sit out the final 10 games of last season to boost Portland’s lottery odds. Lillard was told a top pick would improve the front office’s chances of trading it for a win-now veteran. Lillard reluctantly agreed, with the team citing a “calf injury.” Portland ultimately kept the pick and selected Scoot Henderson No. 3 overall.

According to Haynes, Cronin told Lillard at the September 5 meeting that he planned to extract every possible asset from the Heat if he had to deal with them. Realizing that was unrealistic, Lillard responded by saying if he couldn’t land in Miami, he’d prefer to rescind his trade request and return to Portland.

Cronin told Lillard he couldn’t come back, which “shocked” the 33-year-old, sources tell Haynes. Lillard was “discouraged” that he couldn’t return to the Blazers, but he also didn’t want to be somewhere he wasn’t wanted, so he ended the meeting.

Shortly thereafter, the Blazers — who were frustrated with their offers at that point — refused to communicate with Lillard and Goodwin for almost three weeks. Portland didn’t want Goodwin meddling in trade talks, which is how the team rationalized the decision, per Haynes.

With Cronin refusing to talk, Goodwin came up with a contingency plan, letting both Milwaukee and Brooklyn know Lillard would be interested in joining those two teams. Haynes is now the third to report that information regarding the Bucks and Nets.

The NBA actually got involved on September 23 because of the contentious communication breakdown, Haynes writes. Cronin agreed to have dialogue with Goodwin at that point, and a few days later Lillard was traded to the Bucks.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted he has mixed emotions about the trade, he told Haynes.

It’s a bittersweet day for the city of Milwaukee,” Antetkounmpo said. “You get Dame, who is a great player, but you lose a great guy. Jrue (Holiday) took us to the promised land. I’m 10 years in now. I know it’s a business. At the end of the day, Jrue will alway be be my brother for life. He’s one of the best human beings I’ve been around. But we’ve got to focus on the goal to win the championship. Dame wants this. He’s hungry to win, and he’s going to push us. I’m very happy to have him on our team.”

Haynes’ story for Bleacher Report has more details and quotes and is worth reading in full.

Here are some more notes related to the three-team blockbuster:

  • In a series of Twitter posts, Lillard sent a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to Blazers fans, teammates, coaches, employees, the media, and more. In conclusion, he wrote, “As this chapter of my life ends, I look back and realize how special it was. Even in this moment I feel sad that we never accomplished what I so badly wanted to. I don’t cry much, but I know my love for you is real because I am for sure dropping some tears right now. Rip City you know my heart and where I stand because I’ve stood there for over a decade so to have to move off my square hurts my heart. … I do believe a day will come where I put on a Blazers uniform on again, and hopefully by then I’ll be forgiven for breaking your hearts along with my own.”
  • Center Deandre Ayton, who was sent to Portland in the deal, also sent a thank you message to the Suns (via Twitter).
  • Only Lillard and Holiday will be required to report and pass physicals as part of the deal, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links), who adds that Holiday can’t be traded until both players pass their physicals. The Blazers owe the Bulls a top-14 protected first-rounder through 2028, and if it conveys that summer, Portland’s ’28 first-round pick swap with Milwaukee will be voided, Marks reports.
  • The Blazers generated an $8.8MM traded player exception in the deal, while the Suns got a $1.1MM TPE, per Marks.
  • In another tweet, Marks notes that Holiday can’t be aggregated with other salaries for two months, though he can be traded on his own (or with one or more players if his salary isn’t aggregated with theirs).
  • While multiple reports have now said Goodwin reached out to Brooklyn, hears the Nets were never interested and only discussed Lillard with Portland one time, in July. The Nets simply didn’t believe Lillard could turn them into a contender and were wary of his age and long-term contract, per NetsDaily.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype explores what’s next following the deal, while Sam Vecenie of The Athletic evaluates the trade for the Bucks, Blazers and Suns.

Inside The Damian Lillard Trade

Damian Lillard had become more involved with the Trail Blazers over the past two weeks and was preparing to attend training camp with the team if he didn’t get the trade he requested, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

After nearly three months of waiting, that deal came together on Wednesday, sending Lillard to the Bucks in a three-way trade that also involved the Suns. Lillard hadn’t been reconciling with Portland, the authors add, but he was working out at the team facility and interacting with coaches and teammates to show that he was willing to remain patient as the Blazers’ front office tried to find a trade.

Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, informed general manager Joe Cronin early in September that Lillard was open to participating in camp if a deal didn’t happen before then, sources tell Charania and Amick, and Lillard told team officials that he would be “fully present” for the start of the season while trade talks continued.

However, the authors’ sources say Cronin didn’t want the distraction of having Lillard on the roster when camp began and preferred to get a deal out of the way before Monday’s media day. He viewed the Lillard situation as “a cloud over the organization” and wanted the team to be able to focus on the season ahead without having to worry about Lillard’s future.

Charania and Amick provide more inside information about Wednesday’s blockbuster:

  • When Lillard made his trade request on July 1, he told team officials he only wanted to go to Miami and was expecting to be rewarded for his years of loyalty to the organization. Charania and Amick confirm the Blazers and Heat talked several times in July, but the negotiations never became “substantive,” according to the authors’ sources. Portland asked for Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo in its first call, and Miami eventually decided that Cronin wasn’t serious about working out a deal with them.
  • Sources tell Charania and Amick that in July and August, the Heat were willing to part with three first-round picks, multiple second-rounders and pick swaps, along with Nikola Jovic in a proposal that would have sent Tyler Herro to a third team. However, the Blazers weren’t interested and the relationship between Portland and Miami started to become contentious. It’s worth noting that Miami didn’t technically have three tradable first-round picks available due to an obligation to the Thunder and the Stepien rule.
  • Cronin began serious trade discussions around the league on September 18 and found interest from the Bucks, Celtics, Pelicans, Raptors, Timberwolves and Bulls. All those teams wanted to acquire Lillard, but they were concerned about Portland’s asking price and whether they would have enough talent left on their roster after a deal to compete for a title.
  • Tensions reached a point where Cronin stopped responding to Goodwin in mid-September, sources tell Charania and Amick, and Goodwin began to explore other options that might appeal to Lillard. He was willing to consider the Bucks and Nets, and Goodwin communicated his interest to both those teams. The Raptors also had serious interest, but Lillard’s reluctance to play there was an obstacle until the end, the authors note.
  • The authors’ sources say the Suns started discussing the framework of a Deandre AytonJusuf Nurkic trade in mid-July, but the Blazers wanted to make sure they could avoid the luxury tax when Lillard was eventually dealt. Phoenix would likely have been part of any deal with the Bucks, Nets or Heat, Charania and Amick add.

Latest On Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin will try to accommodate the trade request Damian Lillard made earlier today, but he will also operate in the best interests of his own team, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Rival front offices believe Cronin is looking for a “star-level” return and he’s willing to consider other teams besides Miami, which is Lillard’s preferred destination.

Cronin confirmed that sentiment in a statement he issued after the Lillard news was made public, saying, “We have been clear that we want Dame here, but he notified us today he wants out and he’d prefer to play someplace else. What has not changed for us is that we’re committed to winning, and we are going to do what’s best for the team in pursuit of that goal.” (Twitter link)

Tyler Herro, who has four years and $120MM left on his contract, is considered a vital part of any Heat deal for salary matching purposes. However, sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) that Cronin doesn’t view Herro as a good fit with his roster and would try to find a third team to take him if Lillard is traded to Miami. The Nets have been considered as a team that might take on Herro’s contract, according to Ian Begley of (Twitter link).

There’s also a sense that the Blazers won’t rush into a deal and will take their time to make sure they get the best return for Lillard, tweets Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.

Many teams are interested in acquiring Lillard, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, who names the Sixers, Clippers and Jazz among them. Amick reiterates that a third team would likely have to get involved for a trade with Miami to work.

Amick also examines what led to Lillard’s trade request, saying he was ready to ask for a deal when he and his agent met with Cronin on Monday. Cronin was able to talk Lillard into waiting to see what the team was able to do in free agency, but when no major additions took place Friday night, Lillard called coach Chauncey Billups and decided it was time to move on.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also has doubts that Lillard will end up in Miami, stating that the Heat’s potential best offer would be “one of the worst trades in NBA history.” He believes Miami would be willing to accept Jusuf Nurkic‘s contract along with Lillard, while sending back Herro, Kyle Lowry, Jaime Jaquez, Nikola Jovic, first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 and a pick swap in 2029. O’Connor points out that the deal wouldn’t give Portland a collection of valuable picks or young talent to build around.

O’Connor lists eight teams that he believes should be aggressively pursuing Lillard, starting with the Sixers. Philadelphia has indicated that it’s not willing to part with Tyrese Maxey, but if that changes, O’Connor views Maxey, two future first-rounders, a pick swap and expiring contracts as better than what Miami can offer. He points out that Sixers president Daryl Morey can pick up more trade assets by sending James Harden to the Clippers before addressing Lillard.

Cronin: Blazers Remain Committed To Building Around Lillard

Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin expressed optimism after meeting with Damian Lillard on Monday, indicating that the front office is still “committed” to building around its franchise player, Bill Oram of The Oregonian tweets.

After meeting with Lillard and his agent, Aaron Goodwin, Cronin released a short statement that read, “We had a great dialogue. We remain committed to building a winner around Dame.”

While that alone won’t end the speculation about Lillard’s future, it does indicate that the veteran guard is willing to see what the front office will do this summer to improve the roster. That could impact what teams like Miami, regarded as the most likely landing spot for Lillard, will do with free agency approaching.

There was increasing chatter that Lillard might finally asked to be traded after the Blazers drafted another point guard, Scoot Henderson, in the lottery. Portland will now look for upgrades on the free agent market and via trades.

The Blazers have a key free agent in Jerami Grant and could look to move Jusuf Nurkic or Anfernee Simons via trade in order to upgrade the roster.

Lillard Won’t Rush Into Decision About Future With Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers held onto their draft picks instead of trading them for veteran help like Damian Lillard preferred, but Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link) said the star guard doesn’t plan to make any snap judgments about his future with the team (hat tip to Real GM).

“I’m told the timeline for when the future will land with Damian Lillard likely extends now between tonight and the start of free agency and into free agency,” Charania said on Stadium’s draft show.

Portland used the No. 3 selection to take G League Ignite star Scoot Henderson, who was considered a definitive top-three pick. The Blazers received trade overtures from several teams, including the Pelicans, Charania states. However, he didn’t specify if New Orleans was willing to include Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram in its offer.

Lillard stated after the end of the regular season that he wasn’t interested in playing another year with a young, rebuilding franchise. He hasn’t asked for a trade, but teams throughout the league are reportedly monitoring the situation and preparing offers in case he does ask to leave.

There’s more on Lillard and the Blazers:

  • Lillard appears to be in control of his future in Portland, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who said on the network’s draft coverage that the Blazers will only consider moving Lillard if he asks for a trade (hat tip to Real GM). “Damian Lillard has a decision to make,” Wojnarowski said. “… If he decides he wants a trade, I think the organization will accommodate him. But they don’t want to trade him.” Woj adds that the Blazers front office believes Henderson is more valuable than any return they could have gotten through a trade.
  • General manager Joe Cronin said he had a “long talk” with Lillard on Tuesday about ways to improve the team, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. Cronin said Henderson “has a chance to be a transcendent player” and stated that he doesn’t believe Lillard is closer to leaving because of the team’s draft decisions. “He’s probably being more vocal than ever, but I don’t look at that as a negative,” Cronin said (Twitter link).
  • Sources tell Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report that Lillard hasn’t been in touch with Blazers officials recently regarding the draft, free agency or his future with the team (Twitter link).

Western Notes: Lindsey, Udoka, Borrego, Westbrook, Holmgren, Blazers, Towns

The Mavericks are in advanced discussions with former Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey to join the organization as a special assistant to GM Nico Harrison, Marc Stein of the Stein Line reports (via Twitter). Harrison has been seeking an experienced sounding-board voice to join the front office in a consultant’s role, dating to last offseason.

Following their failure to make the playoffs, the Mavericks have a pivotal offseason that includes trying to re-sign Kyrie Irving and finding ways to improve the roster, despite limited trade assets and salary cap issues.

We have more on the Western Conference:

  • The Rockets will interview former Celtics head coach Ime Udoka for their head coaching job on Wednesday, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. They interviewed former Hornets head coach James Borrego on Monday for their head coaching job, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. The Rockets have already interviewed former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and are expected to interview a number of experienced head coaches and prominent assistant coaches in their search to replace Stephen Silas.
  • Russell Westbrook is unlikely to be suspended for Game 2 of the Clippers’ series against the Suns, Chris Haynes of TNT tweets. Westbrook had a verbal altercation with a fan during halftime of Game 1 on Sunday.
  • Chet Holmgren missed the entire season due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot but the Thunder big man is ready to get back on the court, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Holmgren, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, says most of the recovery and rehab process is behind him. “I’m pretty much past the rehab part of this journey,” Holmgren said, “and now I’m progressing more into the 5-on-5 stuff and kind of taking away any restrictions that I have to this point.”
  • There could be a major change with the Trail Blazers’ guard rotation, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian notes. General manager Joe Cronin must decide whether Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe are part of the team’s long-term plans. Either or both could be traded for the All-Star level talent that Damian Lillard craves. Conversely, Simons and Sharpe could be the backcourt starters if Lillard is dealt and Portland goes into a full rebuild.
  • The Timberwolves will look to bounce back from their 29-point loss to top seed Denver when they play Game 2 on Wednesday. They’ll need a huge series from Karl-Anthony Towns to have any chance in the series, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic details.
  • The matchup against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets could show just how far the Timberwolves are from becoming a true contender and whether the Towns-Rudy Gobert pairing can get them to that point, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines.