The Portland Trail Blazers have become the talk of the league over the last several days due to the head coach search process. It has shifted the conversation to star guard Damian Lillard‘s long-term future, and Lillard has previously voiced which two teams he would play for aside from the Blazers.
Blazers creating internal friction with Damian Lillard
The Blazers suffered another abrupt playoff exit after bowing out in the first round against the Denver Nuggets. It marked the fourth first-round postseason departure in the last five years.
It quickly moved the conversation over to Lillard’s long-term future as he’s playing the prime of his career on a team still far from being an NBA title contender. He’s set to start his four-year, $176.2 million deal that runs through the 2024-25 campaign.
Lillard fully embraces being the face of the franchise while remaining unfazed with his commitment despite the Blazers only putting together one deep playoff run in the last five years. All these factors have guided the conversation over to conflict as some Blazers fans have become frustrated with how the head coach search unfolded after Terry Stotts was fired.
Several members of the fan base targeted Lillard, accusing him of manipulating the process with his preference for Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups. Meanwhile, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the star guard played no factor in Billups being hired as the next head coach.
The external friction has created a growing disconnect between Lillard and the organization, leading him to question his long-term commitment. However, with all that in mind, the 30-year-old has already outlined two teams to which he would welcome a trade.
Damian Lillard already named 2 teams he would play for aside from the Blazers
Over the years, Lillard has continued to bat off suggestions that he should consider playing for another franchise to compete for an NBA title.
Through it all, the star guard has remained fully committed to leading the Blazers to success, eyeing an NBA title push. However, he has acknowledged his tone could change if the organization wanted to move in another direction. In June 2017, Lillard responded to a fan on Twitter asking him what team he would play for aside from Portland.
“If the Blazers said they didn’t want me… Utah Jazz or Lakers,” Lillard said.
Lillard clearly prefers to stay with the Blazers but is open to moving onto another team if the situation called for it. The choice of the Jazz is a bit surprising, but the Lakers have been the team he continues to hold a strong connection with externally.
The franchise holds a long history of competing for NBA titles while constructing a strong roster when they have star power. That is certainly the case right now with LeBron James and Anthony Davis heading the current roster.
All that would make the Lakers quite an appealing landing spot as they would give him a chance to compete for an NBA title. Although these are old comments from Lillard, they do spice things up due to his relationship with the Blazers becoming increasingly rocky.
Portland holds all control moving forward
The rumor mill continues to churn around Lillard and the Blazers, but the bottom line lies with the team’s plans.
The star guard presumably wants to remain in Portland as part of a title-contending team. So the question becomes whether management feels the same way.
If the Blazers sway away from the 30-year-old, things could quickly shift toward him finding a new home in the NBA. Ultimately, it’s a situation the rest of the league will monitor this summer.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.