I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you, Trail Blazers fans.
The good news is that we’re probably going to see a decline in the number of CJ McCollum trade proposals from the Twitter-ati and trade “rumors” from the ESPN personalities.
The bad news: they’ll be replaced by Damian Lillard trade “rumors.”
Specifically, other General Managers are apparently starting to call the Blazers about Lillard and league insiders are starting to speculate that the All-NBA guard might be unhappy. From an outside perspective, this isn’t entirely shocking. Nik Stauskas as a midnight July 1 free agent, and signing Seth Curry to a deal that will be nigh impossible to renew were not exactly peg-the-needle moves. Throw in Lillard’s two visits to Paul Allen’s office and it’s easy to develop a not-so-rosey narrative around the team.
Nonetheless, we all know the rumblings that have already started to emerge aren’t “real,” in that Dame isn’t going anywhere until he marches into Paul Allen’s office and demands to be sent to another city. So far, that hasn’t happened.
The expected, and justified, snap reaction from Blazers fans will be to continue ridiculing these reports. But once the initial frustration has worn off, it’s worth noting that the presence of the rumors tells us something about the Blazers’ reputation among around the league.
Portland’s direction, as judged by other executives, has veered off course. You don’t hear rumors about Steph Curry or Giannis being traded (although we probably should given the state of the Bucks), for example. Heck, you didn’t hear rumors about Lillard trades two years ago. But now there’s at least the suspicion that Lillard might be annoyed enough to ask out, or the Blazers might be interested in a hard reset. The sharks don’t see blood in the water, but they’re interested in those legs dangling off the surfboard
The question I have is whether or not this buzzing will actually matter. Presumably Lillard will block it out or use it as motivation, as he always does, but what about agents and other players around the league? Will two more years of rumors, even if they’re unsubstantiated, create an illusion of turmoil that will scare away free agents? Will other GMs view Olshey as desperate and assume he has no leverage? At the very least the perception that the Blazers are off course certainly won’t help.
Look, I’m as tired of this $#1+ as everone else, but none of it will be resolved any time soon. Analysts will keep analyzing, Stephen A. Smith will keep Stephen A’ing and BlazerManiacs will see it all as a slight to their heroes. Wash, repeat.
Blazers fans can take the Neil Olshey Rorschach Test and bank on the improved shooting and long term prospects of Anfernee Simons, but it’s becoming apparent that many external to Portland don’t share the optimism. Let’s hope that perception doesn’t have any negative consequences.