There has been no movement and everything has been very quiet on the Damian Lillard trade front for more than a month, league sources told NBC Sports. The leaguewide expectation has been the talks would resume and pick up momentum as we got closer to the start of training camp on Oct. 2.
Unlike James Harden, Lillard is not willing to be a disruptive force to pressure the Trail Blazers to trade him. That could have him with the team for training camp and the start of the season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s NBA Today (hat tip Hoopshype).
"[NBA front office] 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 Lilled is also prepared, for the possibility that this training camp may start with him in camp and then if you're the Blazers, you wait to see what happens in the first 20 to 25 games of the season, to see what direction teams go in. Teams may become interested who aren't interested now or teams who are interested now may be willing to give more in trades and it certainly gives you the possibility to construct three-team deals, which is what a Damian Lillard deal might look like."
Three quick thoughts on this.
First, this sounds like what the Portland front office would want to have said about the situation. I don't pretend to know Wojnarowski's sources, nor does that mean what he reports isn't true, but it sounds like Portland's perspective on the situation.
Second, it's no secret Portland doesn't like Miami's straight-up trade offer. While we don't know what (if anything) Miami has formally put on the table, the best they can do (after another move with Oklahoma City to free up a pick) is three first-round picks and a package based around former Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro. Portland would like more picks, and with a similar-style player in Anfernee Simons under contract, the Trail Blazers don't have a great desire to land Herro. All of that has led to the talk of a third team getting involved.
Third, Portland can talk all they want about another team jumping into the mix but that team does not exist. Portland fans can jump on the trade machine and come up with fantasy trade packages they think are better, but they are just that — fantasy. Lillard is an All-NBA player right now but he's also 33 years old with four years and $216.2 million remaining on his contract. No team other than Miami has shown any interest because of that. The Knicks have their point guard and are waiting for other stars who might become available in the next year or two. Lillard is not on the slow-build timeline of the Spurs or Thunder. The list goes on and on. The trade package Portland thinks it deserves for Lillard is not out there and waiting isn't going to change that. Portland will have to deal with reality at some point.
Because it's not in Lillard's nature to be a disruptive force, Portland can bring him to camp and have him mentor Scoot Henderson for a while, but it is in their best interest to turn the page and move on to what is next. This deal could still get done before camp starts (or early into camp), which would be best for all parties, but right now it's still just a lot of posturing.