The Blazers are failing miserably in trying to convince Damian Lillard to stay
Like everyone expected, there was a superstar point guard that was dealt in a blockbuster trade this offseason. But what most people didn’t expect was that it would be Russell Westbrook. The first player Los Angeles Lakers fans were photoshopping into purple & gold right after their playoff exit was Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.
Amid all the chaos surrounding Damian Lillard’s future in Portland this offseason, the 6-time All-Star has mostly stayed quiet. Apart from a few soundbites categorically denying any truth to trade request rumors, Lillard has been laser-focused on getting Team USA a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Blazers are failing Damian Lillard
That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been keeping tabs on his Blazers. After all, even members of the media covering Team USA on-site quiz him about the rumors surrounding his NBA career. Dame recently spoke out about the Blazers’ offseason to this point, admitting he wasn’t exactly unhappy with what they’ve done so far.
Via Chris Sheridan of Basketball News:
“Honestly I haven’t really dove too deep into it. I’ve really been focusing on here,” the Blazers star said Friday on a USA Basketball conference call.
“There are a lot of things that are out of my control. When you go into free agency and things like this, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know where guys are going to end up and why they go there. You just try to have conversations and try to convince guys to be a part of our team.”
Does Damian Lillard sound like he’s ready to dump the Blazers just yet? Not exactly. But given the fact that he’s voiced out the desire for impactful changes, what the front office has done doesn’t really instill much confidence that his wandering eye has been closed shut.
Let’s look at what they’ve done so far. The Blazers locked up trade deadline acquisition Norman Powell to a five-year, $90 million deal. While Powell is a pretty solid scorer with playoff experience, he’s isn’t exactly a game-changer that turns them into a contender.
The rest of the additions have been downright comical. The Blazers have swung a deal with big man Cody Zeller for the veteran’s minimum. They’ve also added standstill shooters Tony Snell and Ben McLemore to an already-crowded backcourt rotation. No disrespect to those guys and the lengthy careers they’ve had in the NBA, but those aren’t the names you want the Blazers targeting when the fate of their superstar is on the line.
You can even make the case that the names they lost were even more valuable than the ones they signed. Big men Zach Collins and Enes Kanter, who have both at one point or another, made an impact with the Blazers, have found new homes elsewhere.
Carmelo Anthony parlayed the Blazers’ faith in him for two seasons into a shot at a title with the Lakers. While Melo isn’t the star that he once was, his locker room presence as a respected future Hall-of-Famer probably resonated with Lillard to a certain extent.
At this point, even a lateral move might be worth a shot. The Blazers admittedly don’t have the sexiest treasure trove of assets up for trade. However, they should at least do something drastic just to shake things up and show Damian Lillard that they hear him.
Zach LaVine, Lillard’s Team USA teammate, also had the Chicago Bulls front office worried that he’d potentially bolt if things didn’t get better. Not only did the team acquire a 4-time All-Star in Nikola Vucevic last season. They also added an equally young, complementary backcourt partner for him in Lonzo Ball who can take pressure off of him on the defensive end. Then followed that up with yet another 4-time All-Star in DeMar DeRozan.
The moves the Bulls made don’t necessarily make them legitimate contenders just yet. The fit is questionable and the defense could be abysmal. But the moves definitely got their incumbent franchise player excited. He even sent over a tweet from Tokyo giving his devilish seal of approval.
— Zach LaVine (@ZachLaVine) August 4, 2021
Compare that to Lillard having to react to the Blazers’ uninspiring additions right after an offseason fraught with trade rumors. Unless Neil Olshey has something big up his sleeve, Damian Lillard finally asking for a trade sometime in the future won’t be surprising anyone.