Jerami Grant has been a revelation for the Portland Trail Blazers through the franchise’s fist 13 games of the season.
Heralded as Portland big offseason addition, Grant was dealt from the Detroit Pistons to the Blazers just before free agency in return for a future Milwaukee Bucks first-round picks and a couple of second rounders.
Portland was able to add Grant for such an arguably low price thanks to the $20 million trade exception generated by the CJ McCollum trade with the New Orleans Pelicans four months earlier.
The Athletic’s Jason Quick has highlighted the steps (subscription required) that led to Grant’s arrival in Portland, namely the relationship he formed with Blazers star Damian Lillard while competing for Team USA during the 2021 Olympics.
Quick also mentioned that the Blazers tried to trade for Grant during the 2021 offseason, but the former Piston felt some loyalty to Detroit after signing as a free agent 12 months earlier.
They became frequent dinner partners at the restaurant in the team hotel. And on the Team USA bus, Lillard’s seat was directly behind Grant. Along the way, each cast a curious eye and ear toward the other. Lillard liked the way Grant competed in practice against Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. Grant liked the quiet nature of Lillard, and how it contrasted with the point guard’s ferocious competitive spirit. Lillard liked the way Grant would stay after practices and work on his game. And both liked how the other carried himself, never making things about themselves.
The more they talked, the more they liked each other. And the more they liked each other, the more they began to talk seriously about becoming teammates beyond the Olympics. At the time, Grant was just finishing his first year with Detroit, where he had signed a three-year, $60 million deal. Lillard, meanwhile, was a Portland icon, but was as frustrated as he had ever been after a first-round playoff loss to Denver.
So, Lillard started pressing the issue. On those bus rides to practices and games, Lillard started leaning in toward Grant’s seat, and began planting seeds.
“I would be tapping the back of his chair,” Lillard said. “And we would be talking about it. Like, ‘We got to get this done.”
When those conversations on the bus were brought up to Grant, he smiled wide, and hesitated.
“I don’t know if we are allowed to talk about that,” Grant said. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and what I’m not supposed to say. But yeah, we did a lot of talking on the buses, talking before the games, practices, getting to know each other. We started talking early, about what it could possibly be, and it just kind of blossomed into what it is.”
In 12 games with the Blazers, Grant has recorded averages of 20.7 points on 46 percent three points shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.9 blocks while regularly guarding the opposing team’s best player.
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