Following a resurgent campaign in 2020-21, the New York Knicks are aiming to make an even bigger splash next season. To that end, team president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry will have in the area of $50 million in cap space at their disposal to lure top free agents to the Big Apple.
They’ll also be in a strong position to make trades, even if their returns come with major salary obligations. So, when reports of Damian Lillard’s discontent in Portland hit the hoops blogosphere, the rumors were actually worth getting excited about for Knicks fans.
Alas, New York may not have the right trade pieces to sway the Trail Blazers in a potential deal. And there’s also the chance that the Lillard rumors are much ado about nothing.
For his part, the six-time All-Star has denied that he’s asked for a trade. Clearly, he wants the Blazers to have a greater sense of urgency in their title pursuits, but he also fully expects to be in a Blazers uniform when the 2021-22 season tips off.
Moreover, a certain former Knick who has two stints as Lillard’s teammate under his belt has his doubts about the reported trade request.
Kanter Speaks Out on Lillard’s Rumored Request
Blazers center Enes Kanter, who spent a year and a half with the Knicks from 2017-19, was a guest during hour three of The Herd with Colin Cowherd on Monday. During his appearance, the veteran big man was asked by Cowherd about the validity of the Lillard rumors.
Although there is growing noise about Lillard wanting out of Portland, Kanter firmly believes his teammate is staying put.
“I don’t think so,” he said of the possibility that Lillard could force his way out of town. “I played with Damian two years ago, and I played with him this year. Like I said, again, I said this many interviews, he is the most loyal player I have ever seen in the league.”
Kanter further opined that Lillard’s championship aspirations aren’t purely selfish, but for Portland as well.
“I don’t think—I talk to many people and every time I go to a basketball camp, kids are always asking if Dame is going to leave. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think Dame loves the Blazers and the Portland fans so much and he obviously wants a championship team. But one thing, he wants to bring a championship to Portland. That’s what people don’t understand. He wants to win a championship like every other player, yes, but he wants to do it all in Portland.”
So where did reports that Lillard would be requesting a trade originate from? Not from the man himself, according to Kanter.
“I don’t think he is going to leave, I don’t think all the trade rumors—he even said it himself, he woke up to all these trade rumors and it’s not true. I don’t think it’s true.”
Knicks Are the Betting Favorite for Lillard if He Is Moved
Whether or not the Knicks can actually put together a winning trade package in the event that Lillard really does desire a move, sportsbooks seem to like their chances of pulling it off.
As relayed by ClutchPoints, BetOnline.ag’s latest odds on Lillard’s next team in the event that a trade does occur have the Knicks at +160 to land him. That mark makes New York the odds-on favorite to usher in a new era of Dame Time.
The Knicks were followed by the Philadelphia 76ers — who can offer former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons in a trade — at +225. The Golden State Warriors were next in line at +400.
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