NBA warn Lillard for trade request
Through a statement, the NBA assured that Lillard will be punished if shows a similar attitude in the future. The memo could aid his process to leave the Blazers.
Damian Lillard is having relationship problems - it’s not going well for him with the NBA in general, or with the Blazers. The point guard, eternally tied to the Oregon franchise, which he joined in 2012, has finally staring at a definitive separation. It won’t be easy, and nothing is guaranteed, but everything points towards it. And, as much as he has said actively and passively that he wants to spend his entire career in Portland and win a ring with the Blazers, everything has an expiration date. And it seems that Lillard’s adventure is nearing its end. Although the way he’s been going about it hasn’t exactly been tactful and goodbyes, as we have seen on other occasions, can be bitter.
Lillard asked to be released from the Blazers on 1 July. He had been threatening to take such a step for months and finally bie the bullet. At first it was said that the Blazers were going to facilitate his departure. But the demands of the playmaker and his agent, Aaron Goodwin, have ended up provoking a reaction from the NBA. It was leaked from the player’s environment that he would only be willing to join the Miami Heat and would not consider any other move, something that tied the Blazers hand and foot when negotiating with other teams. An attitude which the NBA didn’t like at all - in a letter addressed to all 30 NBA teams the league assured that in the future such attitudes will be punishable by the competition.
The North American competition informed Lillard and Goodwin that any future comments “suggesting that Lillard will not fully perform the services requested under his player contract in the event of a trade” will be subject to disciplinary action, as will any similar feedback from players or agents in the future. The star does not have an anti-transfer clause and does not have the right to veto any movement that would take him where he does not want to be. The league did not like the hidden threats - that Lillard would not fulfill his contract if he ended up in any franchise other than the Heat, despite the fact that Goodwin said that the contract would be fulfilled wherever he went.
In one way or another, the NBA’s reaction benefits the Blazers, who now have more freedom to move the player, who averaged more than 32 points per game last year and who, at 32, remains one of the most attractive stars in the competition. In Portland they have to transfer a player who still has $45 million to collect next season and $48m, with a player option, in 2024-25. A lot of money to move but a player who is still in shape and who has a lot to contribute, also having the ability to change the course of the franchise he goes to.
The Blazers are in no hurry - general manager Joe Cronin has already announced that they will be patient in the negotiations and added that they are prepared to wait if nothing happens in the short term. In Portland they want four first round picks and two quality players in the trade and will move in the direction that best serves their interests.
Lillard has been linked to a project for more than a decade, the one he himself has led, which peaked a long time ago - with the 2019 Western Conference finals with Terry Stotts on the bench. Since then, the coach has left, his inseparable partner CJ McCollum and the project has been diluted with the arrival of Chauncey Billups on the bench and the confirmation that there is no possibility of taking any step forward. The reconstruction, eternally postponed, looks like it might finally arrive. And along the way will come the flagship, a Lillard that could have a new destination in the near future. Whether in the Heat or not. We’ll see.