Trail Blazers Fire GM: Damian Lillard Available for Sixers?

damian lillard

Getty Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.

The Portland Trail Blazers fired general manager Neil Olshey on Friday after an investigation concluded he created a toxic workplace environment. Olshey violated the “Portland Trail Blazers’ Code of Conduct,” according to a team statement.

We won’t bore you with the details of what Olshey did or how the decision came to pass. It was a long time coming. And his dismissal was expected. However, Olshey’s ouster could affect the Philadelphia 76ers when it comes to their dogged pursuit of Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

Remember him? The six-time All-Star who received a hero’s welcome when he visited the Wells Fargo Center back on November 2. Lillard is “the guy” everyone wants in return for Ben Simmons, including Sixers president Daryl Morey. Will Portland seek to trade him and start a rebuild under a new front office? That remains to be seen.

Lillard has repeatedly expressed his desire to bring Rip City a championship. He believes in new head coach Chauncey Billups – the 2004 NBA Finals MVP – and the culture he’s establishing there. Then again, Portland sits in ninth place in the Western Conference with a 11-12 record right now. If Lillard did start to grow impatient, this would be the perfect time to get out.

“I always look at struggles as an opportunity to show my true character,” Lillard told reporters on November 2. “I think it says more when you’re going through something and s*** is kind of hitting the fan and you’re struggling and everybody’s got something to say and to me the real ones, they can keep on trucking and keep on going and still find a way to get the job done.”

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Breaking Up McCollum-Lillard Backcourt?

Olshey was the architect behind the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt in Portland. He drafted both players and refused to entertain trade offers for either one despite plenty of rumors. Lillard was Olshey’s first pick as general manager in 2012 when he selected him sixth overall, then he took McCollum 10th overall in 2013. The latter was considered Olshey’s “find” since Portland’s scouting department did the heavy lifting on Lillard before he was hired.

They have been one of the best guard duos in the NBA, although eight straight playoff appearances and no rings has people talking rebuild. Blow it up, right? That may depend on how the Trail Blazers play over the next two months ahead of the trade deadline on February 10. If they start losing games at a record clip, look for the wheels to start turning.

McCollum would likely be the more attainable option in a trade scenario, according to The Athletic’s Jason Quick. The plugged-in reporter covered the topic when discussing a potential Sixers-Blazers trade back in July:

The aim for Portland is to elevate its No. 2 player, which currently is McCollum. In the NBA, teams are largely based around two star players. The Blazers feel like with Lillard, it’s a fair fight against nearly every other top player in the league. But while McCollum is a talented player, they have realized there’s a steep drop when pitting him against other team’s second-best players.

Sixers Fans Ramp Up Lillard Rumors

Sixers fans don’t care about logic when it comes to trading for Lillard. They want him at any price. They might even help pay for Ben Simmons’ plane ticket to Portland. So it was no surprise to see Lillard’s name trending on Twitter when news first broke of Olshey being fired. They saw it as an avenue to get the lights-out shooter to the City of Brotherly Love:

Wait, there is one more wrinkle to throw into the mix: Lillard is injured. The star point guard has been diagnosed with a “lower abdominal tendinopathy” and will be re-evaluated in 10 days. Stay tuned.

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