There has been a lot of chatter in recent days about who the Lakers will target to be LeBron James’ co-star in Los Angeles. While Kawhi Leonard seems to be the safest bet for now, a new name has emerged in Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
Most of the rumors thus far have been unfounded. A cryptic tweet here, some bizarre Blazers decisions there, and a talking head on television trying to get ratings have ramped up the talks but there hasn’t been an official report that the All-Star wants to move on from the franchise that drafted him.
With all of the speculation reaching a climax, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported on ESPN LA that she has been hearing for quite some time that Lillard might have an interest in being traded to the purple and gold:
“I’ve been hearing that in the wind for several months now, but the problem with that is, and this is why you’re seeing passive-aggressive, LeBron-style subtweeting, because he has a lot of years left on his deal and he’s beloved in the city of Portland and he’s a leader on that team, so I really think the only way that would ever become a real threat is if he asked for it publicly. Like if he actually went ot the Trail Blazers ownership and said ‘I don’t want to be hear anymore, I want to be traded.’ And he has not done that, so far all you’ve seen is some subtweeting, and some frustration expressed behind the scenes. But he’s not at that level.”
It wouldn’t be too surprising if Lillard wants a trade. The Blazers have effectively been a first or second-round exit every year he has been in Portland. They are capped out with no flexibility to improve. Neil Olshey has been saying some strange stuff about how draft picks have no value and they just let a beloved role player (and Lakers legend!) in Ed Davis walk for pennies.
That said, Lillard has talked a lot of mean game about loyalty to the franchise and the fans. Things can change and Dame has every right to look for a better situation, but with not much more than speculation surrounding the subject (since, according to Shelburne, he hasn’t actually requested a trade), there’s not a lot to get excited about just yet.
A trade package for Lillard would realistically involve selling the farm as the point guard is still under contract for three more seasons in the prime of his career. But with uncertainty about the Leonard situation, the Lakers should be looking at every disgruntled star hoping to team him up with James.