When the opposing team is introduced before a 76ers game, Philadelphia fans boo them in a long-standing tradition. That’s what happened Monday night when Portland was introduced — until they got to Damian Lillard. Then they cheered.
The first time Lillard went to the free throw line in the game, 76ers fans started chanting, “we want Lillard.”
Sixers fans chanting loudest for a player on the other team 😳😅 pic.twitter.com/uWA52SV8Op
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 1, 2021
The chants broke out again, later.
In case you haven’t followed the Ben Simmons hold out and soap opera to start this season, the love for Lillard in Philly ties into it. 76ers general manager Daryl Morey has not given into Simmons’ trade demand yet because he has not been able to get a “difference maker” in return. In Morey’s dream scenario Lillard (or Washington’s Bradley Beal) would demand a trade, and a deal could be made for Simmons. Monday night, 76ers fans did their part to recruit Lillard.
He heard it, but Lillard wasn’t playing along. Here are his postgame quotes, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
“Yeah, I heard it,” Lillard said, before adding with a smile, “I mean, it’s the City of Brotherly Love, I guess. They showed the brother some love. They showed me some love, but that was it…
“I thought that was funny. That comes with professional sports. It’s fun, it’s a public thing, so I’m not uptight about it or acting like I don’t recognize it.
“I know what it is and I know what it’s about. But I’m a Trail Blazer. I appreciate the love. I appreciate the respect that they showed and the desire or whatever but I’m 10 toes in Rip City, and I’ve said that time and time again and tonight I laughed about it during starting lineups but that was that.”
Lillard has consistently said he wants to win in Portland, and that new coach Chauncey Billups is why (he wants to give the NBA legend a chance). Portland and Philadelphia have had trade talks about a Simmons deal, but nothing has come close to fruition, and there is no way Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey is trading Lillard unless he demands it. League sources continue to say that’s not happening, at least for a while (and by a while, we’re talking next offseason).
All that remains true even after a Philadelphia team without Simmons, Joel Embiid (rest) and Tobias Harris (health and safety protocols) still beat Portland 113-103.
Give Philadelphia fans credit, they tried. Just like Morey’s dream, it was always a long shot.