As late as September, former Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was willing to return to the team, rescinding his early-summer trade request to the Miami Heat, but the franchise told him he could not remain. That bombshell was dropped by Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report in an extensive piece covering the trade that sent Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks this week.
Haynes, long the best source for information on Portland’s former franchise-leading guard, detailed Lillard’s request to join the Heat—made public at the start of July—and the blunted negotiations that followed throughout the summer.
Haynes then relays that Lillard and Trail Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin met privately at Lillard’s home on September 5th to update and clarify their positions. Per Haynes, Cronin made clear that any Miami deal would cost the Florida squad multiple assets. At that point, Lillard indicated that if a deal couldn’t be done, he would prefer to return to the Blazers, rescinding his request.
From the article:
Lillard then said if a deal couldn’t be worked out with the Heat, he would prefer to rescind his trade request and return to the Trail Blazers.
Cronin’s response to the seven-time All-Star was that there was no coming back.
Lillard was shocked, sources said. He said it was discouraging to hear he couldn’t return, but added that he didn’t want to be somewhere he wasn’t wanted, and he ended the meeting.
Haynes also quoted Lillard describing his interactions, or lack thereof, with Cronin from that point on:
“I went into the facility because I was still on the roster and usually that time of the year is when team activities start to pick up as a group. I wasn’t confident I would be moved so I showed up to be in the mix,” Lillard told B/R.
“I didn’t go there to cause any problems,” Lillard continued. “That’s not my character. If they felt that way, it wasn’t my intent. I was just trying to get acclimated and everyone was happy to see me. Every single person except Joe. He never spoke to me. And when I noticed that, I made up in my mind that I’m not going out my way to speak to him.”
That wasn’t the last bombshell. In a somewhat-shocking development, Haynes details a meeting on September 23rd, orchestrated by the NBA, including team officials, league officials, union representatives, Lillard, and Lillard’s representatives for the express purpose of getting the sides communicating and quelling tension between the parties.
The article also talks about Lillard’s reaction to ending up on the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo and his goals going forward, but the Portland sections are certainly eye-opening for Blazers fans. Not all was happy between the star guard and his home team at the end of their run together. Perhaps they’ll be able to mend fences in the future.