The Damian Lillard saga: How things are shaping up and what factors are in play:-
As the curtain descends on the final days of September, the NBA gears up for its training camps. The Portland Trail Blazers have intensified their efforts this week to explore the most probable return of their seven-time All-Star, Damian Lillard. League insiders have informed that Yahoo Sports discussions have expanded with the rival front offices.
Due to the impasse in Lillard’s trade request earlier this July, where no deal materialized for his favored destinations such as Miami or Brooklyn, the commencement of the training camp – and Media Day on October 2nd – looms as an informal deadline. It signals a candid departure for Lillard from Portland, marking the dawn of a new Blazers era. Insiders suggest this is more than just Philadelphia’s ongoing saga, where James Harden’s potential relocation to the 76ers still lingers.
The Blazers boast young lottery picks like Skal Labissiere and Anfernee Simons, apart from seasoned 33-year-old scorer Lillard. Bringing Lillard back, who still has more than four years and over $200 million left on his contract – especially after such public spectacle – presents a stark departure from the page Portland had turned towards in the prior chapter, one where key characters already reside. Amidst this, Philadelphia employees are still reporting to the Harden camp, playing the trade value game to help the Sixers navigate their way out of sending an All-Star to the Heat. How pragmatic is this? Well, Harden has already claimed he won’t ever be a part of an organization where Philadelphia’s President, Daryl Morey, is involved.
The Sixers are heating up discussions with more vigor, whether it’s their Camden, New Jersey, practice facility or their abbreviated stint in Colorado Springs for the training camp. Portland’s situation is swiftly evolving, as conversations about potential suitors for Lillard resonate around the league beyond his preferred Miami heat. Familiar to league insiders, the Blazers’ success in fast-tracking negotiations to their conclusion will depend on how the top brass led by Neil Olshey has deciphered the complex multi-team framework Portland has been exploring in recent days.
At present, Toronto and Chicago stand as two possible destinations for Lillard, garnering the most attention according to league metrics. While a group of NBA executives hopes that Portland will involve Miami in some deliberations before committing elsewhere, league insiders indicate that the Heat hasn’t given significant thought to the recent Blazers talks. Additionally, the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz have emerged as peripheral teams that could contribute significantly to making Lillard’s exit from the Blazers convenient. Building such a blockbuster necessitates the intertwining of various puzzle pieces.
One segment of the evolving Lillard narrative that seems clear: Portland has explored acquiring Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton as part of a multi-team deal, as confirmed by league sources to Yahoo Sports. Arizona Sports and PHNX Sports had initially reported the potential involvement of the Suns. Sources suggest that the Blazers’ interest in Ayton seems tailor-made to secure a suitable defensive anchor for new head coach Frank Vogel and a pick-and-roll partner for Phoenix’s perimeter playmakers who aren’t currently living up to expectations. It’s believed that Ayton desires a touch of the spotlight.
Sources indicate that securing Ayton in the deal may give Vogel a vital depth in the rotation, allowing Vogel to distribute the valuable asset that is Lillard across two pivotal rotation pieces for the Suns – assuming the deal ever materializes. However, it is being argued that dividing Ayton’s services between Phoenix and Portland could substantially bolster Vogel’s roster and elevate their championship aspirations.
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