Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard was subjected to trade rumors throughout the entire off-season.
While nothing concrete came from the player or his camp, there was every reason to believe Dame wasn’t happy in the Pacific Northwest after a fourth first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs over the past five seasons.
Now that Portland sits at a pedestrian 5-5 even after Saturday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers, we’re starting to hear a bit more about this. Specifically, other NBA teams are just waiting on Lillard to request a trade.
“Lillard goes from making these vague comments about, ‘Yeah, I don’t know how long I’ll be here’ like weeks before the season to suddenly ‘I’m all-in.'” There are front-office executives around the league who think this is a strategic choice by the Blazers, Dame’s group and all that in order to create leverage for the organization because right now around the league teams just want Dame,” Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported recently. “They don’t want CJ McCollum, they don’t want Jusuf Nurkic. They’re like, ‘We’re gonna wait for Dame to demand a trade.'”
This comes on the heels of reports that Lillard enjoyed an off-season meeting with LeBron James and other members oft he Lakers. Certainly, Los Angeles isn’t in play after moving off a potential trade for Dame while acquiring Russell Westbrook. Even then, it does appear that others are playing the waiting game here.
Will the Neil Olshey situation impact Damian Lillard and his future in Portland?
Over the weekend it was reported that the Blazers had hired an outside firm to investigation workplace misconduct allegations against their general manager.
“The team is hiring a firm to follow up on complaints from at least one Portland employee, per the reports. The specific nature of the misconduct allegations is unknown,” the report read.
Remember, there was some major drama during the summer when Portland opted to hire Chauncey Billups over more-qualified candidates. That stemmed from sexual assault allegations being levied in the coach’s direction dating back to his playing days. Damian Lillard himself received some flack for his response to the hiring and the like.
This drama coupled with Portland struggling to start the 2021-22 season has the NBA’s water cooler pretty darn busy right now.
While Dame has remained loyal to the organization he’s suited up for over the past decade, there’s something to be said about consistent championship contention and a drama-free workplace. There’s a chance that Lillard will use these struggles and the aforementioned drama to request a trade.
As for the 31-year-old Lillard, he’s joined the rest of his teammates in struggling this season. The six-time All-Star is averaging 18.5 points on just 35% shooting, including a 25% mark from three-point range. One has to wonder who much things behind the scenes is impacting Damian Lillard right now.
What we do know is that there wouldn’t be a limited number of teams interested in his services. After all, we’re talking about a dude who averaged 27.2 points and 6.9 assists on 38% shooting from three point range over the course of the previous six seasons.
This is something we can expect to pick up steam between now and the NBA trade deadline in February. That’s especially true should Portland’s early-season struggles continue.