So that’s how it is gonna be?
From the very beginning of the process of trading Damian Lillard, it seems that the Trail Blazers have had one primary goal: to make sure Lillard does not wind up in Miami, which has been the preferred—scratch that, only—destination he has wanted all along.
The Blazers and Heat talked about the parameters of a Lillard trade back in July, and when Portland did not much like what it heard, the conversations apparently stopped. And they have not picked up, even as training camp has approached.
To be clear, Lillard trade talks have picked up. Just not Lillard-to-the Heat talks.
“Portland, they’re exhausting all of those conversations this week and they’re certainly behaving like a team that wants to get a deal done, that is trying to get a deal done before training camp,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on SportsCenter on Friday. “So far, the one element that has not been a part of these talks are the Miami Heat. But we know in trade talks, in conversations, that can change in one moment with one call.”
That’s fine with Miami. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said, the Heat aren’t all in on Lillard anyway. “I don’t think the Heat are desperate at all to trade for Damian Lillard,” Windhorst said on Friday. “I think they want to trade for him, but I don’t think that it’s something that if they don’t get it done that it wrecks their season.”
Damian Lillard Owed $216 Million Over 4 Years
The basics of a Miami package for Lillard have been laid out since late July. The Heat could offer Tyler Herro, salary filler, a younger player (rookie Jaime Jaquez or second-year forward Nikola Jovic), and a package of first-round picks to Portland for Lillard. Because Lillard had been so bent on going to Miami—his agent said that was the only team for which he’d want to play, and one report suggested that Lillard would not report to training camp unless it was for the Heat—there were no other takers for Lillard.
Also a factor: Lillard has four years and $216 million left on his contract, which runs through his 36th birthday. That has limited the market for his services. The Heat would be willing to take on Lillard’s deal, but not many other teams would.
Two additional teams have been added to the rumor mill as potential landing spots for Lillard—the Bulls and Raptors. More teams have been rumored to be willing to help facilitate a trade, including the Pacers, Suns and Jazz. And, according to a report from Yahoo’s Jake Fischer, the Nets, Hornets, Jazz and Bulls are willing to take on Tyler Herro as part of a Lillard trade.
Heat Could Bring Back Same Roster
Of course, for Herro to be part of such a deal, the Heat would have to be involved, and that would require the Blazers to put aside their pouting and engage Miami in conversations.
But the Heat have put out word that they’re not looking at Lillard as the defining feature of their offseason. Miami was the No. 8 seed in last year’s East playoffs, but ground its way to the NBA Finals, and is coming back with a reconfigured roster this time around.
In-season addition Kevin Love is on hand from the get-go, plus there is the return of Josh Richardson, a flier on center Thomas Bryant and a wave of young guys who could impress (Jovic and Jaquez, plus big man Orlando Robinson and forward Haywood Highsmith).
If that’s the team next year, the Heat will take it, and could look at other trade options as the season goes on.
“They were in the Finals last year,” Windhorst said. “They have young players that are getting better. They have assets that they can trade for other deals. And as we talked about earlier on the show, Dame Lillard isn’t potentially the only star player that could be on the market. Maybe not today, but certainly in the next six-to-12-to-18 months. I don’t think the Heat have ever approached it like it’s the be-all, end-all.”