Sixers Olympian ‘Recruiting’ Damian Lillard?

Damian Lillard, Matisse Thybulle

Getty Portland guard Damian Lillard drives to the rim with Sixers guard Matisse Thybulle trailing on defense.

Everyone in the Philadelphia region wants Damian Lillard in a Sixers uniform next season. But how about the players in the locker room? Do they want to see arguably the best volume scorer in the NBA join forces with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris?

Maybe. A picture of third-year guard Matisse Thybulle chatting up Lillard at pre-Olympic exhibition play was making the rounds after Australia beat Team USA. It’s unclear what was said in that conversation, but Sixers fans were downright giddy about the possibilities.

Lillard has been rumored to be the apple of Daryl Morey’s eye as the “All-Star” he wants in a trade involving Ben Simmons. The Portland Trail Blazers are at a crossroads and may move either Lillard or C.J. McCollum. Both players have been heavily linked to the Sixers ever since Simmons was unofficially put on the market. The offseason is off to a flying start in Philly.

“We need to be a better offensive team,” Morey told reporters on June 22. “I mean we’re two days after [the Game 7 loss to Atlanta], you can tell it’s a little raw still. I think if you replay that Game 7 a bunch of times and, you know, we execute better, then we win. But look, reality is reality. We didn’t do it and, and frankly if we’re squeaking by the second round that just tells me we’re not, we’re unfortunately not good enough, probably, to win the title so we need to get better.”

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Lillard Officially on Trade Market

Lillard still hasn’t requested a trade out of Portland, yet the prevailing wisdom says he will. There have been mixed messages about whether the six-time All-Star was on board with the Trail Blazers’ decision to hire Chauncey Billups as their next head coach. Lillard initially stated he preferred Jason Kidd who recently took the Dallas Mavericks’ job.

Would that force Lillard’s hand? Maybe. According to Henry Abbott of True Hoop, the 31-year-old point guard — July 15 was his birthday — is expected to ask for a trade in the coming days. Abbott wrote the following:

Now a source close to Lillard says that in the days to come, he plans to request a trade.

If this is a surprise, you haven’t been paying attention. As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team. The Blazers are prominent in trade rumors.

ESPN Analyst Proposes Sixers-Blazers Swap

ESPN loudmouth Max Kellerman proposed a package sending Lillard to Philly in exchange for Simmons, Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey and draft picks. It would be a lot to give up for an aging superstar. Then again, it might be the most direct path to a championship for the Sixers, a team clearly in win-now mode with Joel Embiid’s shaky injury history.

“How is Portland going to get better right now? They are stuck where they are,” Kellerman said on ESPN’s First Take. “If I send you Thybulle and Simmons now you can defend and slow down those high-powered offenses in the Western Conference. Meantime, you’re actually buying low on Simmons. There’s upside there.”

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