After Team USA’s basketball practice on Friday, Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard spoke about the rumors that he wants to be traded, and essentially shut them down.
Reports surfaced earlier in the day that Lillard wanted out of Portland, and he even admitted a trade could be a possibility in an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, because he and the Blazers “have constantly come up short.”
NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin passed along what Lillard had to say as he held court with the media:
SNY.tv’s Knicks Videos Twitter feed posted video of Lillard addressing questions about his alleged trade request:
This is a pretty far cry from the rumors that Lillard was intending to request a trade in a matter of days. While that could still happen, Lillard issuing such a firm public denial makes it seem like he isn’t ready to make a decision either way any time soon.
Why Damian Lillard shouldn’t rush on trade request
- Damian Lillard stats: 28.8 points per game (shooting splits: 45.1%/39.1%/92.8%), 4.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists
With the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon and the Blazers going through a coaching change from Terry Stotts to Chauncey Billups, there are a lot of moving parts to Lillard’s situation in Portland. It’s also not his main basketball focus right now.
NBA free agency doesn’t officially open until August, and the Blazers can still retool their roster to build around Lillard. It’s just a matter of whether or not those moves, combined with Billups’ presence, will be enough to get Portland over the hump in the loaded Western Conference.
Lillard should just focus on enjoying the Olympic experience as much as he can and helping the U.S. team to a gold medal. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and he’s bound to think about what his NBA future may hold, but he was smart to not come out right away and broadcast a trade request.
The New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers all stand out as potentially viable trade requests because of their bigger markets, trade leverage, or chances at winning a championship.
After getting bounced in four of the past five postseasons during the opening round, it’s pretty clear Lillard just wants to optimize his chances at winning a title. He’s yet to play in the NBA Finals, and just turned 31 years old. His prime won’t last forever.