Damian Lillard’s confidence in the Portland Trail Blazers’ ability to build a championship contender around him has finally reached breaking point, as the seven-time All-Star point guard has demanded a trade from the franchise that selected him n #6 overall in 2012. NBA Draft, according to Vince Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
Lillard owes $216.2 million over the next four seasons, including $63.2 million for the 2026-27 campaign.
The Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets are the only teams on its roster, per Goodwillbecause the Philadelphia 76ers are not a preferred destination. Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the Trail Blazers “have been advised” that Lillard’s request must be traded to the Heat.
On Friday, the Trail Blazers and forward Jerami Grant reportedly agreed to a five-year, $160 million deal.
The 32-year-old has long been one of the game’s most prolific goalscorers, and his 2022-23 campaign has been the best season of his career. Lillard’s 32.2 points per game and 64.5% true shooting clip last season were both career highs. He added 7.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 36.3 minutes per night for a 33-win team.
In 11 seasons in Portland, Lillard is averaging 25-4-7 (on 44/37/90 single shots). He’s topped each of those points-rebounds-assists numbers in three of the past four years. Lillard was remarkably healthy for the first decade of his career, never missing more than nine games in a single season, and the Blazers made the playoffs every year from 2014-21, culminating in a Finals appearance. of the Western Conference in 2019.
Over the past two years, Lillard has missed 77 games overall (double the amount he missed in his previous 10 seasons) and Portland has failed to qualify for the playoffs in years. consecutive for the first time since it was written. Lillard missed the final 47 games of the 2021-22 season with an abdominal injury that required surgery. He played the last 10 games of last season with a calf injury which also cost him three weeks earlier in the season.
It remains to be debated to what extent Lillard’s absence can be attributed to Portland’s eagerness to find themselves in a better lottery position. The Blazers drafted Shaedon Sharpe with the No. 7 pick in 2022, and they moved up to third place in this year’s draft. The youth movement did not fit Lillard’s own timeline for wrestling.
Questions about Lillard’s commitment to the Blazers have been asked every year since the first of their back-to-back playoff outings in 2020 — and likely even before. Every season, Lillard has reaffirmed his loyalty to Portland, even through separate controversies in 2021 involving the firing of general manager Neil Olshey and the hiring of head coach Chauncey Billups. The February 2022 trade of longtime Lillard partner CJ McCollum still hasn’t impacted his confidence in Portland’s ability to build a winner.
When asked in September 2022 if he still plans to spend his entire career in Portland, Lillard told the Dave Pasch podcast, “Yes.” He called himself a “naturally loyal person” who brushed off repeated urges from people around him to ask for a trade, believing a title chase elsewhere would be less rewarding.
“I feel we will have a chance to win,” he added. “I feel like that moment is going to come. I feel like this opportunity is going to come, and that’s it. As long as I feel like our organization is doing its best and we’re on the same length wave to do everything we can do to win, so I’m ready to swing out. … I want to win in Portland. It would mean something to me to do it here. There’s some significance in that for me, and I’m not saying this in the hope that they could never decide one day, “Okay, we want to move on. What do you want to do?” This is me being true to who I am, how I feel and what I want to see happen. I would like to end my career here. ‘is all.
McCollum’s move to another younger undersized shooting guard, Anfernee Simons, along with a pair of top-10 draft additions, signaled the Blazers weren’t putting their best foot forward to win now.
It took Lillard seven years to win two playoff rounds in a single season, even though he entered the NBA as a four-year starter at Weber State and made the first of his seven All-NBA rosters in his second campaign with the Blazers. Sharpe, who turned 20 in May, graduated high school early, spent his freshman year at Kentucky and entered the 2022 draft without ever playing a game at the college level.
Our first indication that Lillard’s confidence in the Blazers may have waned came earlier in June, when he entertained several trade storylines on Showtime’s The Last Stand podcast. Asked about hypothetical deals for four supposed destinations – the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and New York Knicks – Lillard openly preferred the Heat and Nets, given respective relationships with Bam Adebayo and Mikal Bridges and the construction of the list of the two teams. Still, Lillard expected to start the 2023-24 season in Portland.
With Simons, Sharpe, this year’s No. 3 pick and future draft assets, Portland could pursue star-level players and continue to restructure the roster around Lillard. The idea that the franchise and arguably its greatest talent both seem more comfortable moving on should make suitors think twice about paying Lillard $63.2 million at the age of 36. His championship window may be shorter than his current contract.
Still, Lillard’s ability is beyond appeal. He’s a proven playoff product, averaging 34.3 runs in his most recent streak and twice ending an opponent’s season on series-winning batsmen. He just didn’t have the horses to race. Lillard hasn’t played with an All-Star since LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, when they won 51 games. McCollum was easily Lillard’s best team-mate over the next eight years, and they also won 50 games together – despite rotating on the wings and a series of injuries to center Jusuf Nurkić.
Nurkić owes $54.4 million over the next three seasons, a contract that ranks among the most restrictive in the league. So this summer was to be one of the big changes in Portland. The Blazers had the choice to reload or rebuild, and their decision made Lillard much easier.