Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers appear to be at a stalemate.
As both sides move towards a divorce after 11 years together, there appears to be one major disagreement due to Lillard’s insistence on being traded to the Miami Heat.
The Blazers continue to seek the best deal possible as they grant Lillard’s wish to be traded. However, it’s become very obvious that as Portland scours the trade market for offers involving their seven-time All-Star guard, he desires just one destination — Miami.
Not only are reports stating the obvious, Lillard’s own agent is making it publicly clear that his client wants to play in Miami.
Via Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald:
“I do what I should for my client,” said Aaron Goodwin, Lillard’s agent. “Some teams I did call. Other teams have called me. It’s a respectful relationship with most teams. Truthfully, he wants to play in Miami. Period.”
Although Lillard doesn’t hold a no-trade clause in his contract, he’s controlling his future destination by making it clear through his agent that he won’t be happy if he’s traded to a team not named the Heat.
As Jackson details in his article, Lillard’s message through Goodwin could deter teams from making a push for the star guard — which is what he wants.
“Lillard hopes that message will discourage other teams from offering appealing trade assets to Portland,” writes Jackson.
Mark Medina of Sportsnaut points out that if Lillard is traded to a destination outside of the Heat, he could simply hold out — which would be a disastrous scenario for both parties, considering Lillard has four years and $216 million remaining on his deal.
“He just wouldn’t go,” the source said. “He just wouldn’t report. … I don’t think the other team would trade for him knowing that he doesn’t want to be there.”
While Lillard continues to stress his desire to play in Miami, general manager Joe Cronin and the the Blazers’ organization continues to send the message that they’re in no rush to acquiesce to Lillard’s demands as they seek the best possible deal for the franchise.
Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
“Ownership plans to honor Lillard’s request for a trade, but Blazers officials are telling teams they’ll move Lillard for only the deepest return of assets available,” Wojnarowski said. “Portland is pursuing the sliding scale superstar package of desirable draft picks and high-level young players. For the summer, Cronin’s betting the market over Miami.”
The cat-and-mouse game between both Lillard and the Blazers is summarized by Portland hoping that the market offers the best deal possible, rather than the Heat emerging as the only suitor for the All-Star guard.
“For teams calling about trading for Damian Lillard, the message from the Portland Trail Blazers has been unambiguous: Bring your best offer and make your team our preferred trade destination,” Wojnarowski wrote. “General manager Joe Cronin doesn’t plan to operate a transfer portal to the Miami Heat and dutifully deliver history’s greatest Blazer to his targeted team.”
While the Blazers attempt to play the leverage game, there’s one major problem — stars in the NBA always get their way. The worst possible situation for a team is having an unhappy star player on its roster.
In recent seasons, every star player who desired to be traded was eventually moved. Whether that was Jimmy Butler with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with the Brooklyn Nets, Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans or Paul George with the Oklahoma City Thunder, they were all traded eventually.
The only question is, how long will it take for the Blazers to unload Lillard to the Heat?
Expect Portland to drag this out for as long as they can. Training camp won’t begin until late September, which means the Blazers could very well hold off until then as they continue to seek the best deal possible. It’s also a leverage play as Portland sends the message that they’re not going to give in to Lillard’s demands.
The problem is, teams that have shown interest in Lillard — the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers, for example — won’t make an aggressive push with Lillard making it clear he only has one destination in mind.
As of right now, the Heat’s likely offer features Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and a couple of first-round draft picks. The only drama surrounding the inevitable Lillard-to-Heat trade is who is the third team that will get involved to inherit Herro and his four-year, $120 million contract.
Once the third team gets involved, the Blazers might maximize their return by receiving an extra pick or young player. They can accomplish this by dragging out trade talks for as long as possible.
Don’t be surprised if Lillard remains a member of the Blazers heading into September. But it’s only a matter of time before Portland budges and unloads their all-time leading scorer to Miami.
By forcefully shrinking the trade market, Lillard will eventually get his way and end up in Miami.