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Damian Lillard Negotiation Theories Starting to Get Way Out There

In the absence of progress, national media are getting goofy.

Boston Celtics v Portland Trailblazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat have not made overt progress on a Damian Lillard trade since the All-Star requested a trade at the start of the month. The topic has been getting massive amounts of airtime on national NBA shows, plenty in Portland and Miami as well. At first the outpouring of chatter was civilized, somewhat reasoned. Cap ledgers were measured, trade value weighted, history chronicled and options explored. As the fourth week of discourse approaches, some media members are starting to stray from the beaten path, though.

Let’s put it this way. Whatever Billionaire Bruce Wayne leaves in that little pit he dug when he was out camping, that’s the level of crazy some of the theories we’re seeing have become.

Today David Wilson and Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald floated the following at the 3:30 mark of their “Heat Check” podcast:

I don’t even know if I buy it 100 percent, but someone that has knowledge of what’s going on, they’re not even convinced that Portland wants to trade Damian Lillard at this point. It almost feels like they’re trying to find a way to maybe change his mind or delay this and see if Dame goes, ‘Well, I’ll just be part of this.

The snippet isn’t even worth posting, but repetition of the ridiculous sometimes gives it truth, and the quote has been spread since the podcast dropped.

As we covered in a recent edition of the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag, it makes sense for Portland to wait and maintain radio silence while doing so, ensuring their tenuous place at the bargaining table with the Heat, who otherwise have a significant advantage because of Lillard’s specific request to be traded to their franchise alone. This would be true even if the Blazers were fully on board with moving their star guard. There are no solid indications that Portland is trying to change Lillard’s mind, stall his request for the sake of stalling, or otherwise sour their relationship with him or his support team. If Lillard were to voluntarily reverse course, they would likely welcome him back. But given Lillard’s track record and patience to this point, banking on that eventuality—let alone trying to engineer it—would be foolish.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne joined the fray, albeit in more measured fashion. Appearing on ESPN’s NBA Today, she compared Lillard’s trade request to Lakers center Anthony Davis forcing a trade out of New Orleans to Los Angeles in 2019. She indicated, correctly, that the Davis deal took almost half a year to get done. News of his request came in late January. After public sparring, and complaints by the Lakers that the Pelicans were stalling, the deal got done in July.

Shelburne was good up until that point, but the final quote from her appearance also appears to be getting traction:

Question is does it happen during the off-season or do we wait until February when they have more teams, more time. He may even expand his list of teams he’d be willing to go to?

The lesson that Shelburne took from the Davis deal—that it takes a while for both sides to be happy in a single-destination superstar deal—gets abandoned with the idea that the Blazers might be waiting for February’s trade deadline, hoping to force Lillard to expand his list of landing spots. Again, there is no indication from Lillard’s camp or Portland’s that such a tactic would be successful.

Buckle up and stay tuned as the saga continues...