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Damian Lillard: In hypothetical trade, Heat, Nets are ‘obvious’ destinations for him

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview with Showtime’s Brian Custer, Damian Lillard said that the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets would be “obvious” destinations for him in any hypothetical trade. However, Lillard also said that he expects to be in Portland when the NBA tips off in October.

“Miami obviously,” said Lillard with a laugh in response to Custer’s question about which team he might like to join in a trade. “Miami is the obvious one and Bam (Adebayo) is my dawg. Bam is my dawg for real. But I think Miami is the obvious one. Brooklyn is another obvious one because Mikal Bridges is my dawg too and both are capable, have capable rosters.”

Custer offered Lillard four possible destinations: the Heat, Nets, Knicks and Celtics. Lillard and Bridges are indeed close. He even attended Game 3 of the Nets-76ers playoff series in Brooklyn then partied with Bridges afterwards.

The comment was part of an extensive podcast discussion between Custer, who specializes in boxing coverage, and Lillard, a boxing enthusiast himself. The comments about the Heat and Nets comes at 49:20 of the near hour long interview...

Prior to that, Lillard noted that any trade to a contender would come at a price, that the team would have to give up so much in a deal that it might hurt its chances at continuing to contend. Moreover, he once again expressed loyalty to the Blazers but noted that after missing the playoffs the last two seasons, he wants the organization to “build a team that can compete” and if not, there will have to be a “separate conversation.”

“They could trade me to somewhere that we all say, ‘this is a contender.’ but is it going to cost for me to get there,” he told Custer. “You know what I mean? What is it going to the cost the team for me to get there. And how is it a guarantee that we’re going to be playing in June when I get there? How do we know if everyone is going to be healthy? How do we know if everything’s going to work out?

He specifically cited the Lakers acquisition of Russell Westbrook as a failed experiment in superteam construction.

“When Russ went to the Lakers, everyone was, ‘The Lakers!!’ You know what I mean? Then, they got Russ coming off the bench like he’s not a Hall of Famer and try to put a battery on his back and man, you come off the bench. That’s Russell Westbrook! Like what??

“Neither thing is guaranteed if I go here, I go there. So I really don’t know. I think I made it clear what my wishes are. I want an opportunity to win in Portland and right now we got an opportunity, asset-wise, to build a team that can compete. That would be the No. 1 thing, but if we can’t do that, but obviously, like I said for months now, in a separate conversation we would have to have, we have to let things take its course, see where it lands and go from there. but there’s no guarantee that I’d be playing in June regardless of the situation.

“I love the organization I play for. I love the city I live in and I’m going to give them every opportunity to give me, to give us, what we need to have a true chance to compete for that and if that’s something that isn’t possible, that can’t get done, then we got a different conversation to be had.”

Indeed, his decision to identify the Heat and the Nets as destinations could be a piece in his negotiations with Portland. Being so specific adds to the reality of him departing if the Blazers don’t do what he thinks needs to be done. There are have various rumors that the Blazers might be willing to deal the No. 3 pick in the June 22 Draft for a veteran who would help Portland now.

And when Custer asked Lillard if he thought he would still be with the Blazers come October 24 when the 2023-24 season tips off, Lillard replied, “I do.”

Later Wednesday, his longtime Blazers teammate and friend, C.J. McCallum, said he could see Lillard in Brooklyn as well as Miami...

McCallum cited the lure of New York as attractive for Lillard.

“You look at Brooklyn. Mikal Bridges is his friend. It’s New York! Dame does lots of things off the court. I’m sure that would appeal to him as well. So I would hypothetically, if this would occur, I would look at Miami first, in the Finals, and Brooklyn,” McCallum told ESPN.

Then, on Friday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports told Dan Patrick that the Sixers might also have interest...

But he noted, “I’ll leave it at the Nets and Miami.” Haynes also said that he expects if Lillard wants out, the Blazers would accommodate him in getting him to a desired location.

“If it gets to that point, they would consult with Dame. He’s been there 10 years,” he told Patrick.

The discussion about the Nets as a possible destination comes after reports that the Nets have interest in Lillard. Brian Lewis reported recently that the Nets have “genuine interest” in Lillard if he becomes available while a league source described the interest as “heavy” in talking to NetsDaily. But as Lillard noted, the cost would be high with the league source telling ND that any likely discussion between the Nets and Blazers would start with Nic Claxton and multiple first round picks. The Nets have eight first round picks they could trade, six of them unprotected, through 2030, including two this June.

Beyond that, Lillard is now 32 and has played only 87 games the last two seasons. That’s 15 fewer than Kevin Durant, He also has four years and $216.1 million left on his deal and extension and that final year, at $63.2 million, would be a record breaker at age 37. In comparison, Durant will earn $10 million less in his age 37 year

Lillard’s comment should also put to rest concerns that superstars don’t want to come to Brooklyn. There’s few superstars in the NBA bigger than Lillard who has been All-NBA seven times and is a member of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team. Last season, he averaged a career high 32.2 points a game including the season’s highest single game total, 71 points vs. the Rockets in late February. He became only the eighth player in league history to pass the 70-point threshold.