What could simply seem like a warning, a warning to turn the course of the franchise, is getting closer and closer to reality. According to journalist Henry Abott, from True Hoop, Damian Lillard would be seriously considering asking for his transfer. “A source close to the player assures that in the next few days he plans to request an exchange,” he writes. A total paradigm shift that, as the weeks go by, seems closer and closer to being consummated. Ever since the Portland Trail Blazers chose the sixth base in the draft in 2012, his future had always been tied to that of the franchise. Mainly, through his statements. His intention, reiterated many times, was to become a One Club Man, an eternal franchise player for Oregon. His basketball preference, then, was to achieve glory with the Blazers. One that resists. The loss in the current playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, in the first round, and the controversy surrounding the arrival of Chauncey Billups as head coach could have exhausted his patience.
The rumors, without going any further, began the day after the elimination. “Until when?” Lillard wondered on his Instagram account. A cryptic statement, but easy to read between the lines. NBC Sports’ Jabari Young was the first reporter to report on the matter. According to it, the player was aware of the movements to be carried out by the Blazers to decide his immediate future, relying, like Abott, on a person very close to the base environment. Then Billups would land. In principle, a movement to bring the continuity of Lillard closer; but that, over time, has turned against Portland. The coach, along with Jason Kidd, already in the Dallas Mavericks, was Lillard’s favorite option to fill the position after the departure of Terry Stotts. His arrival, however, caused a sudden wave of criticism from the fans towards the player. Both for his power in the decision and for the record of Billups, accused of sexual abuse in 1997. The latter, something unknown to Damian, according to himself. Chris Haynes, meanwhile, a journalist very close to the point guard, in a column published on Yahoo Sports, continued to reflect the tension.
Since then, the number of franchises that have appeared as interested in the services of the player has not stopped increasing. Anthony Slater, recently, warned of the interest of the Golden State Warriors. “Would the Warriors get into the fight? Yes. There would be that call. They have already discussed the idea internally, as I am sure many contenders have done, seeing the smoke that was generated in Portland,” wrote the journalist, very close to the Californian team, in The Atheltic. Along with the Warriors, Slater, on a long list, mentioned the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. In the case of the Big Apple franchise, a rumor already anticipated by Marc Berman just a month ago. The New York Post journalist, for his part, added the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers. Stephen A. Smith, on ESPN’s First Take show at the time, raised the number to “six or seven” interested teams. An earthquake that, if it occurs, and wherever it may be, would completely change the forces of the North American competition.
Currently, Lillard is focused on the United States team, plagued by setbacks, but with his sights set on winning gold in Tokyo. Damian, who has four seasons left on his contract, will have to face the Olympics at the same time that he decides his particular future. This year, he has pocketed 31 million dollars, a figure that will increase until 54 in 2025, as a result of the extension signed in 2019. The Blazers have eight consecutive seasons reaching the playoffs, all with Lillard, who has nine in the city, but in none of them have they managed to stand in the Finals. In this time, the duel with Golden State Warriors, in 2019, to decide the Western champion has been his maximum achievement, making clear the team’s echelon: in five of the campaigns, the franchise has fallen in the first round of the phase final. “We haven’t won a championship, so obviously our current point is not good enough,” Lillard said after the elimination at the hands of the Nuggets. In this series, the point guard signed 55 points and 12 triples, the absolute record in a final phase, in a fifth game that ended in defeat. According to Henry Abott, it could have been Damian’s latest heroism in Portland.