While talks around a Damian Lillard trade cooled as the summer went along, the expectation was things would start to heat back up (pun intended) as we got closer to training camp.
That’s exactly what has been happening, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, appearing on the network’s NBA Today (hat tip Real GM).
“My sense is that the Blazers have done a lot more talking with teams in the last, say 10 to 14 days, than they did probably in at least a month plus prior. A big part of that is the league is back to work now after Labor Day, and training camp is starting to approach. And that’s the next real deadline in this process.
“But I think Portland, what they’ve been trying to do, is see how they could put together multi-team deals that would get them the assets that they would want. Draft picks, young players. There might be a team that their best asset is a veteran player that doesn’t interest the Blazers, but there’s a third team who might want to take on that veteran and then send whether it’s a young player or picks in part to Portland. So I think they’ve been in communication with a lot of teams trying to find a structure of a deal that can get them a Damian Lillard trade. We’ll see now how much traction they can get between now and the start of camp.”
To recap how we got here, the Portland Trail Blazers are moving toward a rebuild and, with the No. 3 pick in the last draft, selected Scoot Henderson (which was the correct move). At age 33, Damian Lillard doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild, he wants to win now, so he requested a trade, specifically to the Miami Heat. The complications come because Portland doesn’t like Miami’s trade offer, which is two or three first-round picks and a player package likely anchored by former Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro. Portland would like more picks and they don’t have much interest in Herro. Hence Portland’s interest in a “multi-team” trade, a team or teams to take on Herro but send more picks to Portland
It makes sense for Portland and Miami to figure this out. It’s obvious why the Heat want Lillard, they went to the Finals last season and adding Lillard to a lineup with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo makes them one of the favorites in the East. Portland wants to turn the page to the Henderson era and having Lillard around for training camp — which both sides have said they would do if no deal is found — would just be a distraction. The real problem for Portland is they have no leverage outside of the threat of bringing in Lillard to camp, no teams outside of Miami have jumped at the chance to add a 33-year-old guard with four years and $216.2 million remaining on his contract (or at least not at anywhere near the price Portland has demanded).
Talk to people around the league and the expectation remains this deal gets done, likely before training camp but if not then sometime during camp. There’s no bad blood here, Lillard isn’t out trashing the Trail Blazers organization, but the pressure is starting to build as we move toward camp.