The Miami Heat remain the only serious suitor for Damian Lillard. With the league's unofficial late-summer vacation period winds down as a new season dawns, though, there's at least a chance other teams more seriously engage the Portland Trail Blazers in trade talks for the seven-time All-Star.
Though Lillard and the Blazers are both “prepared” for him to open training camp in Rip City come early October, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that “more conversations” await Portland as general manager Joe Cronin and company continue to rebuff Miami's offers.
“Very little of substance has happened since the first several days of July free agency. This has been an offseason in the league, especially in the last few weeks, where I’ve seen this league shut down in a way it really hadn’t the last several years,” Wojnarowski said. But now, executives with teams are back from vacation, kids have started school. People are back in the offices, players are starting to come in for the start of training camp, working out in the facilities. So there will be more conversations between the Blazers and prospective teams over the next few weeks than there were certainly over the last few months. This is a deadline-driven league, the next real deadline of any real substance is the start of training camp. And I think you can expect the Blazers to talk with teams again before then but, I think this is an organization that is fully prepared, and I think Damian Lillard is also prepared, for the possibility that this training camp may start with him in camp.”
Woj’s latest on Dame 🗞️🗞️🚨
“There’ll be more conversation with the Blazers and perspectives teams over the next few weeks than there were over the last couple months. The next real deadline is the start of training camp.”
— 𝙈𝙚𝙡𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝘼𝙇𝙙𝙤𝙣𝙞𝙨 ™ (@AIR305) September 7, 2023
Lillard requested a trade from the Blazers on July 1st, his eyes firmly set on landing with the Heat. While his public preference to join forces with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo no doubt cooled the trade market, it's also undeniable that Portland—which has outwardly tanked the second half of the past two seasons—waited too long to make Lillard available to the rest of the league.
How many teams are in optimal position to surrender multiple first-round picks and intriguing young players in exchange for a 33-year-old, defense-averse point guard who's set to make a whopping $63 million in 2026-27? A veteran, title-contending team like Miami that's proven willing to pay the luxury tax always made the most sense as Lillard's next destination. That'd no doubt be different if Portland put him on the trade market before Lillard signed his massive contract extension last summer, or better yet, several months earlier when Cronin began tearing down his team's longstanding core at the 2022 trade deadline.
Maybe other teams really do pick up the phone to inquire about Damian Lillard now that summer has come to a close. Whether any offer the Blazers may receive will be better than Miami's best current one, though, seems ever unlikely.