Miami Heat obtaining Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard always sounded like a pipe dream, but according to a new report released on Sunday, the likelihood of the six-time All-Star heading to South Beach just escalated to a new level.
According to Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes, “The enormous backlash from the Portland Trail Blazers’ process to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built have become factors that may push the franchise player — Damian Lillard — out the door, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”
If Lillard is looking for a stable franchise, there are few other teams that offer reliable leaders like Heat president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra.
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Prior to Haynes’ report, Odds Shark gave the Miami Heat the third best odds of obtaining Lillard, just behind the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks.
Possibly increasing Miami’s odds, next month, Lillard will head to Las Vegas to start training for the Olympics with USA Basketball. As luck would have it, Spoelstra announced last week that he’ll also be heading to Las Vegas to help coach the Olympic squad.
Working with Team USA’s basketball team is prime time for recruiting athletes, offering Spoelstra, 50, ample time to possibly lure the Portland star to Miami.
ESPN Linked Lillard to the Heat After Portland was Eliminated in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs
After Lillard’s record-breaking 55-point performance in Game 5 wasn’t enough to nab a win in double overtime, Portland was officially eliminated from the 2020-21 NBA playoffs after losing Game 6 to the Denver Nuggets. Following the disappointing first-round exit, Lillard’s post-game comments created quite a stir.
The 30-year-old guard, who averaged 34.3 points and 10.2 assists per game versus Denver, called out the franchise for their shortcomings.
“I don’t know what a shakeup looks like or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as is, it wasn’t good enough,” Lillard said. “We came up short against a team without their starting point guard and shooting guard (Will Barton and Jamal Murray)…. Obviously, where we are isn’t good enough to win a championship if it’s not good enough to get out of a first-round series with two of their best three or four players not on the floor.”
Fueling the fire that Lillard may be looking to find a new home next season, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith mentioned the Miami Heat by name as one of “six or seven teams” that have put calls into the Portland front office about Lillard:
Several calls have come their way. You got a lot of teams, about six or seven different teams, that think they can get their hands on him. They think they got a shot. One of them includes the Knicks which is scheduled to have about $75 million in cap room space along with some picks. But also the Clippers, the Miami Heat, and who knows what the Lakers might try to do. Stay tuned.
Lillard Is Under Contract With Portland Through the 2024-25 Season
If Lillard is looking for a new team, he will have to ask for a trade. The former No.6 overall draft pick signed a supermax extension with the Trail Blazers in 2019, and it will be tough to find a franchise able to pay such a massive salary for a player turning 31 in July.
While Portland fared better than Miami in the playoffs, Lillard may be looking at the bigger picture. Not only has he never won a championship, but he’s also never been on a team that has made it to the Finals.
If the finances are able to be worked out, Lillard joining Bam Adebayo, who also accepted an invitation to join Team USA, and five-time All-Star Jimmy Butler could absolutely make the Heat a force to be reckoned with in the Finals next year.