Damian Lillard could set up a successful business: Insider
All summer it seemed inevitable. Star point guard Damian Lillard was decidedly unhappy with the Portland Trail Blazers, following a first-round NBA playoff ousting and, ultimately, the sacking of Terry Stotts and the hiring of Chauncey Billups. The hiring shed light on a sexual assault charge brought against Billups two decades earlier, and how the organization – particularly team chairman Neil Olshey – conducted a so-called “investigation” into the hiring. The case made the Blazers extremely inept.
Lillard, who had been so firmly committed to winning at Portland during his 10-year career with the team, has had a strangely uncertain summer. The Sixers have noticed. In July, while Lillard was training with the United States team, he said very cryptically, “I haven’t made any firm decisions on what my future will be.
This has radically changed. Even though Lillard has struggled this season, he reconsidered his uncertainty. Less than three weeks ago, Lillard said in a interview with Athletic, “Everyone says what they think I’m thinking and what they think I’m going to do, but like, I’m not leaving Portland, you know? “
But insider of the league Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer says Dame’s sudden 180-degree turn on a Portland exit is suspect to many NBA executives and may just be the first phase of a Lillard blockbuster.
“He goes from those vague comments about ‘Yeah, I don’t know how long I’ll be here’ like weeks before the season, all of a sudden, ‘I’m on top,'” O’Connor said. on the Mismatch Podcast. “There are front office executives in the league who think this is a strategic choice for the Blazers, the Dame group and all of that in order to create leverage for the organization because right now , the league teams just want Dame. They don’t want CJ McCollum, they don’t want Jusuf Nurkic. They say, ‘We’re going to wait for Lady to ask for a trade.’ “
Lillard increases business value with Portland allegiance
In other words, if Lillard really wants to be traded, he’s doing exactly what he should, a bit of the opposite of what Ben Simmons does in Philadelphia – Lillard puts on a happy face and announces his happiness in Portland.
That way, when the Blazers’ field calls for teams looking for a deal with Lillard, the team won’t be in a weak position like the Sixers are. If O’Connor is right, it could be good news for the Sixers. Lillard remains at the top of the team’s wishlist.
Back when Lillard first made his uncertainty known, it sparked a series of crazy rumors that landed Lillard in all kinds of new places: with the Knicks; with the Sixers, where he could be traded for Ben Simmons; with the Lakers, who, Lillard admitted last week, signed him in the offseason. Miami was also a potential contender before the Heat acquired Kyle Lowry.
Throughout the Simmons Saga, the Sixers hoped that the Blazers, who were understandably reluctant to put Lillard on the market, would give in and discuss a Lillard-Simmons swap. General manager Daryl Morey was eager to hang on to Simmons until he could get a star in return, but no such offer was made. Yet any attempt by Philadelphia to bring in a star will be built around Simmons.
Lillard is not cheap. He’s in the first year of a supermax extension he signed in 2019, which is expected to net him $ 195 million, including $ 43 million this year. Simmons is in year two of a five-year, $ 170 million contract extension and will earn (minus fines, at least) $ 31.6 million this year.
Philly would undoubtedly have to give up more than Simmons to get Lillard back, and they are one of the few contenders able to offer picks and young players. While Tyrese Maxey is likely off the table, the Sixers might consider a combination of young guys like Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton to sweeten the pot. The Sixers owe a first-round pick in 2025 to Oklahoma City and, therefore, cannot trade their picks in 2024 or 2026, according to NBA rule, but could offer a first-round pick in 2022 or 2023 in Portland.
Olshey inquiry could hasten Lillard’s departure
The makings of a deal have always been there for Portland and Philadelphia. The problem has been the Blazers’ reluctance to part ways with Lillard or, more specifically, Olshey’s reluctance. It could happen, or he could already have a snap deal with the squad ahead of an imminent trade, as O’Connor suggests.
The fact that the Blazers are under investigation for “toxic work environment” under Olshey, who has long held the “no way” position of discussing Lillard deals. He has invested heavily in Lillard’s success and has not considered putting Portland into a rebuilding phase.
But it now seems inevitable that Olshey will lose his job, either by resigning or being fired. A new big boss at the Portland front office, according to many in the league, would be key to getting Lillard traded.
Lillard said he made a commitment to Portland. But that could, in the end, prepare for his departure – and the Sixers will be on the front line when that happens.