As NBA training camp season approaches, the heat around Damian Lillard’s trade request from the Portland Trail Blazers is starting to reach a boil. The opening of the new season provides a natural deadline for the Blazers to get a deal done, but rumors around the actual process remain sketchy.
This week NBA experts David Aldridge, John Hollinger, and Sam Amick got together for The Athletic [subscription required] to talk about pre-season storylines, Lillard included. Both Hollinger and Aldridge agreed that the Lillard saga could continue past the season opener and through to the NBA Trade Deadline in 2024.
Here’s what they said regarding the situationship between Portland and Dame:
David Aldridge: Oh, it’s Dame Time, still. Has to be. Whatever you think of his skill set at this point of his career, he’s still a top 15-20 player in this league. Whoever gets him gets a significant boost to their talent, which extends through everyone on their roster. He tilts the floor. So, if you are, say, a team that plays in the Eastern Conference, and has another floor-tilter whose name sounds like “Timmy Cutler,” getting Lillard vaults you to the top of the heap in said conference. So, until that situation is resolved — and, it has to be resolved by the trade deadline; whether or not it gets done by the time camp starts or not, the Blazers can’t let this hang over them for an entire season – determining what team has the best chance to come out of the East will remain up in the air. (Having said that: are you out of your minds, Heat Nation? No, Tyler Herro and three first-round picks is not a good deal for Portland for, arguably, the best player in that franchise’s history. Not. I love how fans — and, not a few general managers — argue with a straight face that my team’s third- or fourth-best player with some filler should, somehow, be enough for you to give up your team’s best player. Like, I’ll trade you my ’09 Camaro with shot brakes and three bald spares to you for your ’22 Benz with 253 miles on it. What? Sounds fair!)
John Hollinger: I think the Harden situation will quickly move to the forefront as we get into training camp and the early part of the season, because that’s the one with the highest potential for provocative, escalatory behavior.I think it’s very unlikely that Lillard will no-show training camp or openly mail in games … sure, he might keep the throttle at 75 percent and sit out games when he’s dinged up and otherwise might have played, but I don’t think he’s wired to just go into full eff-you mode against the Blazers. He still has four years left on his deal, remember. Him playing in games up until the trade deadline would be a non-shocking outcome for me.
By contrast, there’s been plenty of suggestion that momentum on a Dame move is picking up this week. We’ll just have to see.