Damian Lillard, the Blazers star guard requested a trade this past week. It’s something the media has been angling at for years. The past few offseasons and trade deadlines, they have been ravenously pushing the narrative that he was growing tired of Portland’s inability to compete for a title, and that he wanted out. They planted a seed. It took time to take, but finally here we are. Lillard requested a trade.
Now, Blazers GM Joe Cronin was adamant that he wanted to continue build around Dame. He sought trade offers from other teams front offices, for the third pick in this year’s draft. But, teams wanted Shaedon Sharpe as well, and the return was laughable. There were no legitimate offers. Mikal Bridges wasn’t available. The price for players like OG Anunoby, and Zion Williamson (likely the only trade return to make the Blazers a contender), were too steep and not near palatable.
Whether this was the result of Joe Cronin’s practical giveaway of players the past few years, a side affect of front offices made more reluctant to make moves by the new CBA, the competitive nature of GM’s, or some other reason, could all be argued.
The Blazers rolled the dice, drafting some young players, who they thought could contribute now, and be part of an accelerated rebuild. They put all of their eggs in one basket. They hope Damian Lillard would see things the way they did. That they had to rebuild differently. As a small market team, handcuffed by big name free agents unwilling to come to town, and an unwillingness of other GM’s to offer fair deals, they had to rely on the draft.
Lillard himself had issued an ultimatum prior to the draft. Trade for veterans to make the team competitive or he was out. That’s understandable following years of failure at the hands of the prior general manager. The Blazers hoped he would acquiesce again. But, Lillard held his ground.
He walked into a meeting with Cronin before free agency along with his agent and disclosed his displeasure about drafting instead of trading. He gave the Blazers, some reports say a week to sign vets or make trades (likely sending out Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic). They got till the end of the first day of free agency. Lillard informed the Blazers he wanted out. He named the Miami Heat as his preference and in some reports as his only choice. Elsewhere, it’s been stated that he gave the Blazers a short list of teams he would be ok going to in a trade.
The Blazers balked at moving him to Miami as the team has few assets the Blazers would desire. They only own a few future picks, none of their own till 2028. They want to send veterans Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro in the deal. The Blazers don’t want them and for good reason. They are rebuilding around Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe. They need young prospects and picks to team with them.
The Blazers decided to hold out. They don’t care to give away Lillard for a bad return. They can’t afford to lose this trade of all trades. They are saying goodbye to their star player. They need assets. Lillard’s exit can’t be for naught. That should be understandable. It’s reasonable. It makes sense. The medias narrative says otherwise.
The talking heads out there in the mainstream and local medias share a dissident opinion. Ultimately, that the Blazers should forgo a fair return and just trade Dame to his preferred destination, the Heat. Their reasoning? Because Lillard has been loyal. In their eyes the Blazers “owe” him.
Lillard has to this point been loyal, yes. He has played 11 seasons for Portland, shattering records, hitting game winners, working his way up to becoming the best Blazer ever. He got as close to the zenith as he could, and he gave the fans one hell of a show on the way up. Lillard exists in his own era of Blazers Basketball. For that, and I think I can speak for all fans, even the ones who are currently angry, we are forever grateful.
But, that doesn’t mean the Blazers can give him away because he earned it with his loyalty. What his loyalty has earned him is a place amongst the upper echelon’s of the franchises’ greats and hundreds of millions of dollars. This is a business. The Blazers front office has to do what is best for the team, not for Lillard. They don’t owe Lillard anything other to honor his trade request. He is still under contract with Portland. Lillard agreed to it and signed it. The Blazers control where and when he goes as long as he is under that contract.
Suggesting any team should put a single players interest above their own is preposterous. For the media to take this narrative and continue to run with it is dishonest and lowly. Are they taking this stance because they truly believe it or because they selfishly want Lillard in Miami, on a big market contender so they can suddenly put him in a spotlight, after shunning him on the Blazers for all these years.
If the Blazers can get Dame to one of his preferred destinations that’s great, but they shouldn’t do it at their own expense…at the expense of their future. It makes no sense. The media has helped push him out. They were successful. Now, they can be patient while Joe Cronin and the Blazers front office do this right.