Damian Lillard has long been a rumored target of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazer’s star guard might be more available than ever before.
Lillard has become tainted by the backlash following the Blazers coaching search and has “concerns on whether a championship contender can be built” in Portland, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. It has left him considering looking for a way out from the franchise that drafted him No. 6 overall in 2012.
Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large part due to the tremendous fan base. But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said.
Lillard is under contract with the Blazers until 2025 thanks to an extension he signed. 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.
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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 from Oakland, California and was a big fan of Kobe Bryant. Back in 2017 he tweeted that if he wasn’t in Portland he’d sign with the Jazz or Lakers.
Lillard Takes Heat on Social Media for Billups Hire
Lillard has faced some criticism for Portland’s assumed hire of former All-Star guard Chauncey Billups. It has yet to be officially announced, but the team is reportedly negotiating with Billups, who is currently an assistant for the Clippers. A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday to announce the team’s next coach.
Lillard told Jason Quick and Shams Charania of The Athletic earlier this offseason that he supported both Billups and Jason Kidd — who signed on with the Mavericks — as head coaching candidates for Portland.
It seemed innocent enough from Lillard but the hire of Billups became problematic when a 1997 rape allegation against him resurfaced. Fans went after Lillard for endorsing Billups on social media, which was referenced by Haynes.
“This is on Dame IMO. They were always going to hire exactly who he wanted and he wanted Billups or [Jason] Kidd,” one user wrote. “They put out names like Becky Hammon and Mike D’Antoni to cool off some of the backlash and hire the guy who they were always going to hire.”
Lillard saw the tweet and responded.
“I was asked what coaches I like of the names I ‘heard’ and I named them,” he wrote. “Sorry I wasn’t aware of their history I didn’t read the news when I was 7/8yrs old.”
The report comes just days after news that Lillard is getting “antsy” in Portland.
“Terry Stotts is out as coach. There are rumblings that Damian Lillard is getting antsy,” Quick wrote. ” … There is a palpable sense of urgency coming from Lillard’s camp. Lillard wants to win big, and he wants to do it now.”
Lakers Among Favorites to Land Lillard Via Trade
The Lakers are among the top landing spots for Lillard, per recently released odds via Odds Shark. The Lakers are +350 to land Lillard, putting them fourth behind the Knicks (+250), 76ers (+275) and Miami Heat (+300).
The Lakers would likely be higher on the list if they had more assets to work with for a trade, with their current situation making it hard to facilitate a deal. It would take some real magic to make a trade work, including sign-and-trade deals and a stockpile of future picks.