Damian Lillard thought he was just suiting up for an exhibition with Team USA against Argentina in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Loyal fans of the Los Angeles Lakers in the stands had other ideas.
Lillard scored 13 points in the 108-80 victory over Argentina but was reportedly hearing some recruiting pitches from fans using the moment to recruit him to LA, per Arash Markazi.
“Lots of Lakers fans at the USA-Argentina game in Las Vegas making their personal pitch to Damian Lillard to join their team from the stands,” Markazi tweeted. “‘Come to Los Angeles!’ ‘L.A. loves you!’ ‘Future Laker Dame!'”
The Laker fanbase has been excited about the prospect of landing the six-time All-Star guard following a report that he was disgruntled with the Trail Blazers and could seek a trade. Lillard has concerns over the latest coaching search and the ability of the team to build a true contender, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
NBA insider Farbod Esnaashari followed up Haynes’ report with more information on Lillard and the “rift” that has been growing.
“There is a growing rift between Portland Trail Blazers ownership, Damian Lillard and the front office,” he wrote. “Dame has been in touch with players on other teams this off-season and monitoring Portland’s future before committing to anything.”
Lillard is under contract with the Blazers until 2025, so recruiting pitches won’t do much. But if he truly wants a fresh start, he could push his way out of Portland like other stars around the league have in recent years, although the amount of money he’s owed is quite the hurdle.
Reggie Miller Shoots Down Idea of Anthony Davis-Lillard Swap
With the Lakers needing to pull off a trade for Lillard, the focus shifts to the team’s assets and what they could give up that the Blazers would find attractive. Does a package centered around Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and some combination of few picks they have left work?
There’s always the very slim possibility of the team star-swapping Anthony Davis for Lillard, although Hall of Famer Reggie Miller broke down on the Dan Patrick Show why that wouldn’t be such a hot idea.
“No. Absolutely not. As much as I love him, Damian Lillard has to have the ball in his hands to be successful. That’s what made him great. He’s a great isolation, one-on-one, high pick-and-roll player,” Miller told Patrick. “LeBron, given what he’s done throughout his career, needs the ball to be successful. I don’t think they would play well off of one another, I just don’t. And I think that’s why Anthony Davis is a perfect complement if he can stay healthy.”
Lillard Has Shot Down Trade Speculation
With his name being floated around in speculation, Lillard responded to some of the noise while in training camp with Team USA.
“Anything that I have to say, I’m going to say directly to [Blazers general manager] Neil [Olshey] and I’m going to address it directly with my team,” Lillard said during Team USA’s training camp, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “There’s really nothing else I have to say about it.
“There’s a lot of things being said and sometimes words being put in my mouth, and I haven’t said anything. If there is something to be said or if I think something or have something to say that I’m going to say it and I’m going to stand on it.”
The Lakers do have some of the best odds to land Lillard, per Odds Shark. The New York Knicks (+250) are No. 1, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers (+275), Miami Heat (+300) and then the Lakers (+350).