Coincidence or prophecy? Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard visited Philadelphia on Thursday to undergo surgery on his abdomen. Lillard left the procedure “feeling good,” per Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports. Lillard will be re-evaluated in five to six weeks.
That was the end of the story until Philadelphia 76ers fans caught wind of it. Lillard has been the prized target of Sixers’ brass dating back to August when reports first surfaced that Ben Simmons wanted a trade. The six-time All-Star is considered to be one of the best point guards in the NBA. Lillard, not Simmons. And the Philly faithful serenaded him with chants of “We Want Lillard” back on November 2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I know what it is and I know what it’s about. But I’m a Trail Blazer,” Lillard said at the time. “I appreciate the love. I appreciate the respect that they showed and the desire or whatever … I’m 10 toes in Rip City.”
But Portland has underperformed all year and sits in 10th place in the Western Conference at 16-24. They aren’t a good basketball team right now. And Lillard had missed eight games while dealing with lower abdominal tendinopathy before electing for surgery. Needless to say, the rumor mill has the 2013 Rookie of the Year asking for a trade despite him refuting every single report.
“People are saying, ‘Dame is frustrated.’ I am frustrated with losing and not playing my best,” Lillard told Marc J. Spears. “But that doesn’t mean I’m sour on my team and I’m looking elsewhere. That has never been me.”
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Curious Timing for a Philly Visit
Dr. William C. Meyers is arguably the best surgeon for core muscle injuries (note: don’t call them sports hernias) in the world. Professional athletes travel to Philly to see him at the drop of a hat. So it’s no surprise that Lillard would choose Meyers for his operation. However, the timing of it certainly was interesting.
Simmons’ rumors have hit warp speed with the NBA trade deadline less than a month away. His agent, Rich Paul, met with Sixers president Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand on Wednesday to discuss the never-ending stalemate. There was no resolution, including a report that the Sixers have upped the asking price.
Paul stayed in Philly after his lunch meeting with Sixers’ brass to watch the Sixers-Hornets game. That means Simmons’ agent was in town at the same time Lillard was set to undergo surgery. It’s not out of the realm of possiblity to think all three sides had a meeting. Well, that’s the optimistic theory among Sixers fans who took to Twitter en masse with glee.
Doc Rivers Says Simmons Visited Facility
Perhaps buried among all the trade rumors was a nugget from Doc Rivers about Simmons showing up to the practice facility in recent days. The Sixers head coach wasn’t sure what it meant moving forward, but it’s certainly something to monitor. Philly has been holding out hope for a reconicilation.
“He does come to the (practice) facility, but I don’t know what that means right now,” Rivers said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Hopefully we’ll have an answer sooner or later.”
The Sixers have stopped fining him ever since he started seeing a team-mandated therapist for his alleged mental health issues. Simmons hasn’t commented publicly on anything, preferring to let his agent leak stuff to the press. Stay tuned.