Damian Lillard is ready to request a trade that would take him away from the Portland Trail Blazers. Today Henry Abbott of Truehoop cited a “source close to Lillard” saying that the request was imminent in an article titled “About That Time”.
Abbott portrayed Portland’s exit in the 2021 NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Denver Nuggets as emblematic of the issue. Lillard scored 55 points in in Game 5 of that series but the Blazers lost in double-overtime, which Abbott says “cemented the narrative” that the team isn’t good enough to support a superstar of his magnitude. Abbott quoted Lillard’s now-famous Instagram post in which the guard employed lyrics from rap legend Nipsey Hussle to express his feelings:
Events since have only exacerbated the issue:
If this is a surprise, you haven’t been paying attention. As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team. The Blazers are prominent in trade rumors.
The article recounts the unrest surrounding the vetting and hiring of Head Coach Chauncey Billups as contributing factors.
Truehoop also reads into tea leaves of various Lillard statements and rap lyrics to bolster the case, saying that Lillard’s participation with Team USA in Las Vegas and the release of Space Jam 2 today provide enough high-profile opportunity away from the Blazers to let the “time to go” sentiment blossom.
Finally, and most surprisingly, Abbott claims that the desire to part ways may have elements of mutuality, with the Blazers also wanting out because of their current circumstances. Heretofore his long contract and boost to team value have kept him sacrosanct in Portland, but...
That math may have changed. The primary thing pushing down the team’s valuation, if sold today, is the appearance of broad disarray. Imagine being some billionaire planning to shell out a couple of billion for a sports team, and knowing the moment you did Stephen A. Smith would be on TV saying you had taken over a joke of a franchise? Billionaires can be ever-so sensitive.
Also: imagine if the team doesn’t trade Lillard, and then—like Anthony Davis in New Orleans—things become untenable. What new-to-the-NBA billionaire wants their first move to be ripping the heart out of Rip City? It’s easy to picture suitors to purchase the team asking Jody Allen to first stabilize the franchise.
Editorializing: It should be noted that there might be ways to stabilize the franchise short of throwing out the baby, the bath water, and the entire bottom three floors of the mansion, but if Lillard requests a trade publicly, those measures would lose effectiveness.
The 31-year-old guard has spent all nine seasons in the NBA with the Blazers since Portland selected him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. He’s earned 6 All-Star nods and a half-dozen All-NBA Team nominations (one first-team) while averaging 24.7 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.2 rebounds over 682 appearances.
You can read the article in its entirety at Truehoop.
Update 8:10 AM, Pacific:
Yaron Weitzman of Fox Sports tweets that Lillard is scheduled to be available for questions today as part of the Team USA media schedule. If that holds, this subject will surely be on the minds of assembled reporters.
Team USA just sent out its media schedule for today. Damian Lillard is listed as one of the player who will be available to reporters— Yaron Weitzman (@YaronWeitzman) July 16, 2021
Update 8:22 AM, Pacific:
Lillard’s teammate Jusuf Nurkic has weighed in with this:
Y’all really about to believe a guy with a name Henry abboott . . https://t.co/Z3VWcA7gTr— Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) July 16, 2021
Update 9:00 AM, Pacific:
Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report has a comprehensive piece on the statements and events from Lillard over the last two months and how they’ve evolved.
Update: Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian reports that Lillard will not request a trade.