Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard remains one of the hottest topics in NBA trade talk as the league prepares to enter the Summer of 2023. Early today, Lillard appeared on Showtime Sports’ “The Last Stand”, talking about the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets as possible trade destinations. That prompted an intense discussion on ESPN’s Get Up program, featuring none other than Lillard’s former Trail Blazers teammate CJ McCollum. McCollum, known as a friend of Lillard’s, talked at length about the possibilities of a Lillard move and why this summer’s rumors seemed more intense than similar talk in past years.
The Lillard discussion begins at the 16:16 mark of this video clip. A full transcript of McCollum’s comments follows.
CJ McCollum’s comments, responding to the question of urgency surrounding Lillard trade talks right now:
This a loaded question. I think twofold here... I’m going to preface this by saying Dame is my guy and I know that he wants to be in Portland. He’s always talked about his affinity for bringing a championship to Portland, with Portland. So I’ll start with that.
The obvious answer here is that if something were to occur, it makes sense... Miami is in the Finals right now. They have great culture. They have obviously Eric Spoelstra. They have a young core. They’ve got veteran players. They have a need for what he brings to the table.
Jimmy [Butler] talked about how he’s not really a scorer. He scores, but he’s not really a scorer. That is a certified scorer, leader, shot-maker, shot taker. So it’s obvious Miami is a great fit. We’re not talking about Miami nightlife. We’re not talking about what Miami has to offer from a tax standpoint, which are all great things. We’re talking about the fact that they’re consistently known for doing the right thing for their players, by their players.
You look at Brooklyn...Mikal Bridges is his friend. It’s New York. Dame does lots of things off the court, I’m sure, that would be appeased in him as well.
I would say hypothetically if this were to occur, in my eyes, you look at Miami first, in the Finals, then Brooklyn.
Why is this different? It seems like every year we go through this with Dame and Portland. Why do you believe this summer will be different, that Portland will probably pull the trigger?
I think twofold. This is the year where Portland actually has the assets to potentially do something one way or the other. They have to kind of figure out realistically, what do they want to accomplish going forward? You have Anfernee, you have Shaedon Sharpe, you have all these young players. You’ve got Nurk. You’ve got Grant who’s expiring, becoming a free agent. And you have a lot of teams who value Scoot Henderson. You have a lot of teams who value some of the things you have to offer.
And I think for Dame it’s a timeline thing. We’re on the other side of 30. I said earlier today, we’re closer to the end of our basketball careers than the beginning. So the light switch is coming on in terms of urgency, ability to win, ability to win now and what that looks like. We don’t all want to play the game forever. We’ve got families. We’ve got things we want to do with our lives.
So I think for Portland it’s a matter of doing right by Dame, obviously, but also understanding that there is no wrong decision here. You could decide to go young and you could get a lot of assets for him or you could decide to move some of those young assets to get a player to his caliber who could help win a championship.
But the bottom line is, I think the market will dictate what happens. I don’t think Portland necessarily has the answer in their head right now. They have to figure out realistically what these other teams are looking for and what they’re willing to give up for Dame. We’re talking about a guy who makes a lot of money, who brings a lot of notoriety to your team. And there are a lot of teams who would give up a lot of assets for him. It’s just a matter of what they want and what teams are willing to give up.
ESPN analyst Zach Lowe then rebutted some of McCollum’s comments, reminding viewers that Lillard expects to remain in Portland, that Miami has few assets to give up in trade for the superstar, and that mentioning Mikal Bridges as a friend could be an attempt to lure Bridges to Portland as much as engineer a Lillard trade to Brooklyn.