Ever since he formally requested a trade last week, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has made it clear he wants the front office to deal him to the Miami Heat. But what if the Blazers trade him elsewhere?
“He just wouldn’t go,” a person familiar with Lillard’s thinking told Sportsnaut. “He just wouldn’t report.”
The person stressed that the Damian Lillard is “not a disruptor” and wants to honor his contract in the 2023-24 season. But even if he doesn’t have a no-trade clause after agreeing to a two-year, $122 million extension that keeps him under contract through the 2026-27 season, Lillard has hoped for the Blazers to accommodate his trade request out of respect for both his resume and for his contributions to the Blazers’ franchise.
Lillard was voted last year on the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team after guiding the Blazers to eight consecutive playoff appearances. Last season, the seven-time All-Star also eclipsed Clyde Drexler as the Blazers’ all-time leading scorer. And his trade request aside, the Blazers often lauded Lillard for his performances and work ethic, how he elevated his teammates and his overall professionalism.
“I don’t think the other team would trade for him knowing that he doesn’t want to be there,” the person familiar with Lillard’s thinking told Sportsnaut. “He’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer so they should respect his wishes.”
Portland Trail Blazers won’t give into Damian Lillard’s trade demands
Following Damian Lillard’s trade request, Blazers general manager Joe Cronin released a statement that said in part that “we are going to do what’s best for the team in pursuit of that goal.” The Blazers are willing to wait even leading into next season’s trade deadline until they find a deal that they feel reflects Lillard’s value, a person familiar with the organization’s thinking told Sportsnaut.
The Blazers are cognizant that the Brooklyn Nets declined to accommodate Kevin Durant’s trade request last summer until dealing him and T.J. Warren to the Phoenix Suns for Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) and a 2208 pick swap. ESPN published a story on Thursday morning that detailed Portland’s deliberative approach.
As for Miami? Bleacher Report reported recently that “the Heat are prepared to offer a package centered around Tyler Herro, with possibly Duncan Robinson and picks.” But the Blazers have not found Miami’s current proposals appealing in both deals that either could help the Blazers stay in playoff contention or begin a rebuilding process. Those around the league have echoed Bleacher Report’s story that an eventual deal will likely involve a third team in hopes to facilitate more players, expiring contacts and draft picks.
The Portland Trail Blazers finished 13th in the Western Conference last season (33-49) partly because Lillard missed 58 games with a right calf injury. Nonetheless, Portland believed this offseason it could have been a playoff contender in a competitive Western Conference with a healthy 32-year-old Lillard, a veteran big man (Jusuf Nurkic) and a promising young core (Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe).
Instead of dealing their No. 3 pick for an established veteran, the Blazers drafted a dynamic point guard (Scoot Henderson) that may need time to accentuate his strengths (playmaking, athleticism) and address his weaknesses (shooting).
On the first night of free agency, the Blazers then retained forward Jerami Grant on a five-year, $160 million deal. And on Thursday, ESPN reported that Portland matched the Dallas Mavericks’ three-year, $33 million offer sheet to restricted free agent, Matisse Thybulle, who theoretically could be part of a future Lillard trade package.
“Portland is going to do what’s best for Portland. But if there is a negotiation, I think everybody can get what they’re looking for,” the person familiar with Lillard’s thinking told Sportsnaut. “Nobody is going to be 100% happy, but you can still get what you want. You just have to engage. I’m hopeful they will start.”