The split between Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers has reached the “chess match calculations” phase, as Lillard tries to engineer a trade to the Miami Heat while Trail Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin insists upon exploring other offers. The conflicting aims and machinations of the two sides were revealed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnaroswki in an extensive piece on the ongoing Lillard saga [subscription required]. Wojnarowski ran down the usual list of trade possibilities, but the most interesting material involved the principals themselves.
Wojnarowski cites league sources, saying Cronin and the Blazers intend to honor Lillard’s trade request, but are committed to taking the best deal available and are soliciting offers for same:
Ownership plans to honor Lillard’s request for a trade, but Blazers officials are telling teams they’ll move Lillard for only the deepest return of assets available. Portland is pursuing the sliding scale superstar package of desirable draft picks and high-level young players. For the summer, Cronin’s betting the market over Miami.
As he executes the exit of the greatest player in franchise history, executives talking to Cronin describe him as devoid of sentiment. Business for Lillard, business for the Blazers.
As the rarest commodity in the sport, star-level players wield considerable influence. Lillard definitely qualifies. Wojnarowski underlines the point guard’s singular preference for the Heat and describes some of the tactics that Lillard and his representatives are employing to ensure they get their way:
As Cronin explores the broader landscape, Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, has been calling prospective trade partners and warning against trading for his client, team executives told ESPN. Goodwin is telling organizations outside of Miami that trading for Lillard is trading for an unhappy player. As interference goes, this is a time-honored agent maneuver to depress offers and clear a path to a predetermined destination.
Given the circumstances, these developments are not unexpected. They are somewhat of a departure from the happy-happy veneer Lillard and the Blazers have shellacked over their relationship to this point. Amicable divorces are still divorces. We’ll see how this one turns out.