Make no mistake: The plan in Portland is to retool around Damian Lillard and make him the centerpiece of a contender. Already that process has begun with the franchise and coach Terry Stotts parting ways and Portland considering hiring Jason Kidd, Lillard’s choice for the job. A roster shake-up is coming as well.
The plan is not to trade Lillard, arguably the greatest Trail Blazer in franchise history.
However, that doesn’t stop other teams from calling to check on Lillard’s availability — the NBA is a cutthroat business, and right now other teams smell blood in the water in Portland. Multiple reports say if Lillard decides to push his way out of the Pacific Northwest and force a trade, other teams want to be in line. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Sources say several NBA teams — including those in the top markets — are already intensely monitoring this situation in Portland and how it develops to look for an opening to make trade offers.
Those teams include the Knicks, Heat, and Clippers, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Clearly, NBA teams have seen this as an opening. Stephen A. Smith revealed on ESPN’s “First Take” Friday that “six or seven” teams have already called the Blazers to inquire about Lillard’s services. One of them was the Knicks, along with the Heat and Clippers.
That “opening” only exists if Lillard pushes his way out of Portland — something that is not likely at this point from the man considered the lowest maintenance superstar in the league. Lillard has four years, $196 million left on the super-max extension he signed with the Blazers pre-pandemic. The Trail Blazers are not under any pressure to trade Lillard.
What Lillard clearly wants to see is change in Portland. That appears to be coming. Will it be enough is another question entirely, but one not answered soon, or likely even this offseason.
But that’s not going to stop other teams from calling and checking. Lillard is on everyone’s radar now.