Suns Emerge as ‘Dark Horse’ in Potential Damian Lillard Blockbuster: Report

Damian Lillard, Chicago Bulls

Getty Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers.

All-Star point guard Damian Lillard became the latest superstar to demand a trade over the summer after expressing his desire to no longer play for the Portland Trail Blazers. However, he is still under contract with the Blazers through 2024-25, meaning the Blazers do not have to honor his trade demand.

As the the season draws near, the team has not received the kind of offer it feels is on par with a player of Lillard’s caliber. However, the Phoenix Suns have emerged as a “dark horse” to get involved in a deal centering on Lillard.

“While the Suns lack the assets and/or contracts to trade for Lillard or Harden themselves, one source referred to the Suns as a ‘mystery team’ in regard to their potential involvement. Another called them a ‘dark horse’ to help facilitate a deal as an additional party,” Gerald Bourguet of PHNX wrote.

“Talks are heating up around the league with teams like Portland, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Toronto all very active right now The Suns could be the mystery team needed to get some of these deals done, per my conversations,” Bourguet wrote in a September 21 story. “With camp weeks away, things could get interesting!”

Adam Silver Sounds Off on Stars Demanding Trades

Stars demanding trades is a subject that can be discussed from several angles. On one hand, stars should have the agency to choose where they want to play. But on the other hand, those same stars that elect to exit so abruptly can leave a reverberating impact on the franchises they demand to be dealt by, as well as the NBA as a whole.

Ticket sales, merchandising, and sports betting are just a few areas impacted when a high-caliber player demands a trade.

If he were to get dealt before the Blazers’ season starts on October 25, Lillard would be one of the biggest superstars to force a trade in NBA history and the biggest since Kevin Durant asked for — and received — a trade from the Brooklyn Nets.

Amid Durant’s initial request in 2022, commissioner Adam Silver warned that stars forcing trades, the way that Durant and many others have, is a bad look for the league.

“Look, this needs to be a two-way street. Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players, and the expectation is in return that they will meet their end of the bargain,” Silver said after the NBA Board of Governor’s meeting, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

“I’m realistic that there are always conversations that are going to go on behind closed doors between the players and the representatives of the teams, but we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.”

NBA Stars Forcing Trades Could Have Ripple Effect

Since 2017, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Durant have all forced trades away from situations they viewed as undesirable to go to ones they considered more favorable, despite being signed to max contracts. Even though max-contract superstars forcing trades has been a rare occurrence, Silver says, it could have a ripple effect on all the players.

“It’s not just potentially the league or the team governors who are impacted, but lots of other players as well. So, it’s one of those issues that as we move into this collective bargaining cycle. … We intend to discuss with our players’ association,” Silver said.

“It’ll never be the case when players won’t be unhappy in certain situations, but we don’t want to see it playing out the way it is now.”

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