Following a fourth first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs in five seasons, rumors persist that Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard could request a trade this summer.
Outside of the Blazers’ inability to have success in the postseason, recent drama surrounding the organization has not painted it in the best of lights.
Portland fired longtime head coach Terry Stotts, only to replace him with a controversial figure in that of Chauncey Billups on the bench.
This was all magnified by the Blazers’ unwillingness to have Billups answer questions about a previous allegation of sexual assault during his introductory press conference.
Preparing to play for TEAM USA in the coming 2020 Summer Olympics, Damian Lillard answered questions from reporters during training camp in Las Vegas on Thursday. In the process, the six-time All-Star pushed back against the aforementioned trade rumors.
“I’m prepared to go in and do my job like I always do. Hopefully we can make strides in a positive direction and become a better team with a new coach,” Lillard told reporters, via Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. “All of the people who have covered me since I’ve been here should know that if I have something to say, I’ll say it and stand behind it. Everything I have to say, I’ve said to (GM) Neil (Olshey) directly. I don’t really have nothing to say to you guys about it.”
Damian Lillard trade rumors overblown?
Based on what Dame said on Thursday, it’s clear that he has not requested a trade from the Blazers. It was late last month that Chris Haynes from Yahoo! Sports penned a report indicating that Lillard could in fact ask out over the summer.
“The enormous backlash from the Portland Trail Blazers’ process to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built have become factors that may push the franchise player — Damian Lillard — out the door,” Haynes reported back in late June.
Since then, other reports have suggested that a rift is growing between Lillard and embattled Blazers general manager Neil Olshey.
“One element here that I’ve heard is, with Lillard and Neil Olshey, they have not totally seen eye-to-eye in Portland,” Ian Begley of SNY reported. “A couple players around the league have kind of jokingly said, ‘If you like Portland, if you like being in Portland, don’t get close to Dame because you might get moved.’ Over the course of Lillard’s tenure, we’ve seen players that he’s been close with not remain on that roster, whether it’s via trade or signing somewhere else in free agency.”
While Lillard did not push back against reports indicating that him and Olshey are at a crossroads, he’s apparently been in communication with the general manager regarding the direction of the Blazers’ organization. That could tell us something is up behind the scenes.
As for Damian Lillard, he’s been as loyal as any star player in modern NBA history. The former top-six pick just finished up shop on his ninth season in the Pacific Northwest — averaging 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists on 39% shooting from distance.
Despite this, Portland’s continued postseason struggles have placed into question Lillard’s long-term future with the struggling organization. Regardless of what Lillard says publicly, another first-round exit coupled with the drama we’ve seen this offseason will lead to continued trade rumors.