Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo announced his decision to join the 12-man Team USA roster for the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, as first reported by ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, and six-time All-Star Damian Lillard was noticeably pumped to hear the news.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ star caused a stir on social media after he “liked” an Instagram post announcing that Miami’s 23-year-old center was joining him on the Olympic team.
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Raising even more eyebrows, less than an hour after the Instagram picture was posted by @leaguealerts, the post was not just taken down, the handle’s entire page was deleted from the app. Despite being erased, photos of Lillard “liking” the post made their way onto Twitter.
Of course, Lillard might just be happy to see the young up-and-coming star get selected to join Team USA’s Olympic team after Adebayo was cut from the FIBA Basketball World Cup roster in 2019. A snub Adebayo was clearly still not over a year later, tweeting about the rebuff in 2020.
Despite a less than stellar performance during the playoffs, Adebayo was still dominant during the regular season, averaging 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.2 steals.
Adebayo should prove to be a dominant big man on the Men’s Olympic Team. Aside from Lillard, the other players joining the Heat star on the Tokyo roster includes Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.
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.
Lillard has not publicly made any comments about wanting to leave Portland, but if he’s privately teetering on the idea, Adebayo could make it his business to lure the superstar to South Beach while they play alongside one another in Tokyo.
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 Adebayo and five-time All-Star Jimmy Butler could absolutely make the Heat a force to be reckoned with in the Finals next year.