LAS VEGAS — Damian Lillard wants to be traded to the Miami Heat. The Portland Trail Blazers know this, but they haven’t given up hope that the seven-time All-Star will change his mind.
And whether he does or not, the Blazers insist they’re in no rush.
General manager Joe Cronin, at the news conference where the team unveiled its new five-year, $160 million contract with Jerami Grant, spoke at length about the standoff with Lillard. He offered no details about the talks, did not negotiate publicly, and revealed that he has not spoken to Lillard since the franchise’s cornerstone filed for a trade.
“We are going to be patient,” Cronin said Monday. “We are going to do the best for our team. Let’s see, you know, how this lands. And if it takes months, it takes months.”
Lillard’s trade request was made public on July 1, the first full day of free agency in the NBA. After the Blazers revealed that Lillard, who spent all 11 professional seasons in Portland, had asked out, agent Aaron Goodwin confirmed days later that the seven-time All-NBA selection wants to go to Miami.
“Dame’s position will not change,” Goodwin told The Associated Press last week. “This whole situation was about creating a chance for Portland to win or give him another chance that he wants, which is Miami.”
The whole thing is complicated on so many levels: that the trade request was made public, that Lillard wants to be traded only to Miami (he doesn’t have a no-trade clause and Portland isn’t required to honor that request), that he’s loved as one of Portland’s all-time greats and not having him on the roster simply means the team probably won’t have enough to truly compete in the stuffy Western Conference.
“As a team, you always hope you have more options,” Cronin said. “Having limited options like that, I wouldn’t call it frustrating, but maybe it prevents you from getting the best performance. So, it’s something we’ll have to work on.”
And in his eyes, there is still hope that Lillard will change his mind, although there has been no indication of that happening.
“I haven’t given up hope, just because I understand that this league is complicated and things change very quickly sometimes,” Cronin said.
The Blazers have a core of young talent: Anfernee Simons just turned 24, Shaedon Sharpe is entering his second season after being the No. 7 pick in 2022, and point guard Scoot Henderson enters the league as the No. 3 pick this season. draft. . Cronin said he understands why Lillard would look at the Blazers as they are currently built and feel there is no clear path to contending for a title next season.
“I could see why Dame would look at it and say, ‘Well, this is not a win-now chance, or at least as much as a win-now chance elsewhere,’” Cronin said. “So in that sense, I understand her position and I respect her position and it makes sense to me why she would want to go elsewhere.”
But Cronin also believes great days are ahead for Simons, Sharpe and Henderson.
“Those guys are going to have an impact on winning very soon in this league,” Cronin said.
Lillard is coming off a season in which he averaged 32.2 points for the Trail Blazers. He is a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, but has never come close to a title in his 11 seasons in the league.
He met with Portland several times and asked him to improve the roster to the point where he can compete for a championship. But those efforts were not to Lillard’s liking. And now, commercial surveillance is on.
“It’s just hard. How do you replace Damian Lillard? Who is the person in the markets that is available that is a better player than Dame?” Cronin said. “No team knows what this market is like more than us. We have been trying for 18 months to find the equivalent of Dame in another position or someone who is 80% of Dame, even. So, that’s the challenge and that’s why we have to keep working.”
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