Damian Lillard tries (again) to make it clear: “I’m not asking for a trade”

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It feels like there is chaos around the Portland Trail Blazers: The team has lost 6-of-7 and has its two best players out injured, plus the owner just fired the general manager and is searching for a new one.

That has led to hope in some fan bases and NBA front offices that Damian Lillard would look at all this, throw his hands up in frustration, and tell the next GM “I’m out of here” and to trade him.

Except Lillard hasn’t done that — quite the opposite. He has said he wants to stay and make it work in Portland. Repeatedly. And he did it again at Trail Blazers’ shootaround on Wednesday.

“I’m not asking for a trade… My intentions are to be in Portland and to figure this out… Why would I be part of trying to find solutions if I’m planning an exit?” 

Yesterday, a report said Lillard would seek a two year, $107 million extension this summer, and some future GMs didn’t want to pay him more than $50 million a season in his age 35 and 36 seasons. The Trail Blazers have reached a crossroads in the sense of do they want to trade players such as CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic to try and build a contender around Lillard, or hit the reset button and rebuild.

That doesn’t mean Lillard is trying to force his way out. He repeatedly has said he is not.

Ultimately the decision on the future direction of the franchise belongs to owner Jody Allen — and owners love popular players who fill buildings, sell jerseys, and bring in sponsors. Lillard does all that.

Maybe some general managers would prefer to rebuild without Lillard — rebuilds take years and years, which provides a steady job in an otherwise unstable profession — but if Lillard can get healthy, many would love the chance to build a contender around a top-10 player in the league. This new GM would get to make bold moves —  trade for Ben Simmons or a couple of the stars out of Indiana — and try to put together a contender and chase a ring.

Whatever happens the next month or two in Portland, don’t say Lillard is pushing for a trade. He is not.