Blazers’ Damian Lillard Sounds Off on Nets’ Mikal Bridges Amid Trade Rumors

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers.

For some time, Brooklyn Nets star Mikal Bridges has had a fan in Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Lillard most recently expressed his affinity for the emerging star during an appearance on ‘Stephen A’s World’ on ESPN with Stephen A. Smith during the Chicago Bulls’ win over the Toronto Raptors on April 12.

“Like players,” Lillard asked in clarification when asked who he is a fan of in today’s NBA. “I love Mikal Bridges.”

It must be said that Lillard also mentioned Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum on his list. But his fondness for Bridges predates his being put on the spot by Smith during the segment.

Both players also workout together under the guidance of trainer Phil Beckner in Arizona during the offseason, and Lillard even came to Bridges’ defense during the latter’s early stages as an NBA player when his talents were being questioned, saying of the then-Phoenix Suns’ prospect “that’s my boy.”

It goes even deeper.

Damian Lillard Wants to Play With Mikal Bridges

“If I had to say a player right now that I would want to add to our team, I would say somebody like Mikal Bridges or OG Anunoby or Jarred Vanderbilt,” he said on ‘The Dave Pasch Podcast‘ in September. “Somebody like that. One of those three. I love those three guys.”

Loyal to the team that drafted him, Lillard has recently put more public pressure on the Blazers and general manager Joe Cronin to field a more competitive team. Cronin has acknowledged as much saying they are looking to get more veteran-laden next season.

But a prior commitment to the Chicago Bulls figures to limit Portland’s buying power in an environment where it is becoming increasingly possible they see a new direction as fitting.

Despite coming off of his best season as a pro, he is 32 years old and is owed a whopping $216-plus million over the next four years. There is a player option in the final year of his new two-year, $121 million extension that kicks in in 2025. But with over $63 million on the line in what will be his age-36 season.

It’s hard to fathom anyone turning that down.

That could leave the door cracked just enough for the Nets to get the Blazers to change directions and finally move their franchise cornerstone.

Brooklyn’s Godfather Offer to Portland

While the Nets don’t control their own draft picks, they did reload with plenty of capital in the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades. They could send a package including any combination of the Suns’ picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, or 2029 as well as a Mavericks pick in 2029. Most are future assets, sure.

But if the Blazers are going to move Lillard, they are going to fall further into the Western Conference basement. That’s why adding Cam Thomas is as essential as including Ben Simmons (if the Nets could ever be so fortunate), albeit for different reasons.

Thomas offers an intriguing if not limited skill set as an explosive scorer, though Portland does have one of those in Anfernee Simons.

Simmons’ inclusion is solely to match Lillard’s exorbitant contract.

He has not played since the All-Star break, ultimately getting shut down with back soreness, and is owed more than $78 million over the next two years. Those factors along with his own limited skill set make the player an anchor in any trade negotiations.

Where things could get interesting is if the Blazers insist on getting Cameron Johnson, Bridges’ friend and a restricted free agent this offseason, back to finalize a potential deal.

Who blinks then?