The Heat suffered a major loss when news of the Damian Lillard trade broke on Wednesday, failing to acquire a future Hall of Famer who specifically wanted to be dealt to them, writes Greg Cote of The Miami Herald. Nearly three months after Lillard told the Trail Blazers that he only wanted to go to Miami, he wound up in Milwaukee, where he and Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the greatest obstacle to the Heat’s chances to repeat as Eastern Conference champions.
Miami missed out on Lillard because team president Pat Riley wasn’t willing to increase his offer to Portland and couldn’t find a third team to help facilitate a deal, Cote adds. Riley was counting on Lillard’s preference for Miami and a lackluster trade market to eventually work in his favor.
Cote contends that acquiring Lillard is the type of win-now move the Heat need to make because their championship window is limited with 34-year-old Jimmy Butler as their best player. Adding Lillard would have provided a shot of energy the team needs as it approaches a long season, Cote adds. Instead Miami will open camp wondering how he got away.
There’s more from Miami:
- With Lillard off the table, the Heat’s options to improve their roster are now limited, observes Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports. Age is an issue as Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love are older than Butler, Rohrbach notes, and so are financial concerns as Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are owed about $130MM for the 2025/26 season, which represents 90% of the projected salary cap. Rohrbach adds that the summer-long pursuit of Lillard showed Herro’s limited trade value around the league.
- Butler’s Instagram post on Wednesday accusing the Bucks of tampering in the Lillard deal received an endorsement from Herro, who tweeted, “What he said.”
- RJ Hampton, who is joining the Heat on a two-way contract, is grateful to be in Miami after spending time with three teams in his first three NBA seasons. “A PRIVILEGE to be apart of this organization, let’s go,” Hampton wrote on Twitter. The Heat opened a spot for Hampton with a series of moves on Wednesday.