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Speculation continues on Nets role in Damian Lillard trade, but how real is it?

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Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

So much of the speculation about the Damian Lillard trade discussions is just that, speculation. And on Wednesday, Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports admitted as much when he wrote that there’s speculation about the Nets being drawn into a multi-team deal where Tyler Herro would come to the Nets and Ben Simmons would head to Portland.

There’s been league-wide speculation that Brooklyn has looked into adding [Tyler] Herro as an effort to offload Ben Simmons.

That of course would be very interesting, huge even ... if found to be more than speculation. Herro’s averaged 20 points a game the last two years, was Sixth Man of the Year two years ago and at age 23 has already helped get his team to the NBA Finals twice. On the other hand, the sidelined Simmons contract, with its two years and $78.2 million Portland, would be off the Nets books. First round draft picks, presumably from the Nets stash would fly in all directions.

But league sources keep dismissing such speculation, telling NetsDaily there’s nothing going on — “it’s all quiet,” said one — on at least the Nets front in a purported multi-team deal involving Dillard. Fischer, while suggesting such a deal could work, admitted there’s been “no meaningful conversations” between Brooklyn and Miami. And Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote Thursday that the overall discussions are “stagnant.”

Fischer also wrote that the Nets might not be interested in Herro because they are “intrigued” by the possibilities a healthy Simmons could bring to Brooklyn ... if healthy.

Yes, this is another offseason rife with social media sightings of Simmons on the mend, shirtless and lifting and back on the court, but Nets officials seem genuinely intrigued to see how a healthy, former three-time All-Star can perform in a much different Brooklyn environment.

It is indeed obvious that Brooklyn is “intrigued” by what Simmons can do, They’ve said so, repeatedly, in the last four days. Sean Marks, Jacque Vaughn and Spencer Dinwiddie all provided only slightly varied assessments of the three-time All-Star’s status to reporters while in Las Vegas. This was not speculation. It came following a trip to Miami where Simmons is working out. Marks, accompanied by the Nets performance team and others, met with Simmons and his agent, Bernie Lee. Afterwards, they were optimistic. In his most recent comments on Tuesday, Marks told Sarah Kustok and Frank Isola on SiriusXM Radio just how important the return could be.

“You know, he is a very important piece. I mean, let’s not beat around the bush, he’s a very important piece of how we sort of build going forward,” said Marks echoing what he told beat writers two nights earlier at Cox Pavilion.

“He certainly fits the timeline and, you know, he’s a unique player and what he can do on the court for us, size and defensive and athletic ability and just doing some things that, to be quite frank, not many people can do. So, you know, we need him out there, we need him back healthy.”

But tying intrigue with Simmons to interest in Herro seems a stretch. The Nets simply may not want to add another big contract — Herro is at the beginning of four-year $120 million deal — at a time when they are rebuilding, retooling, re-something ... and trying to avoid the repeater tax and second apron hell. Moreover, the Nets did just sign Cam Johnson, a similar-sized second scoring option, for only a little less money.

Joe Cronin, the Portland GM, said he plans to be patient as he seeks the best offers for Lillard. “If it takes months, it takes months,” he said Tuesday in preaching patient. He also noted that teams that are prepared to wait — as the Nets did with Kevin Durant — do the best. On the other hand, the James Harden trade from Houston to Brooklyn in January 2021 suddenly went from a reported standstill to completion in 48 hours.

So unless and until things from speculation to rumor to completion, there will be more speculation. In the meantime, ponder the meaning of this image of himself and a workout partner Herro posted Thursday on Instagram…

Meanwhile, in speaking with WFUV, the Fordham student radio station, Ian Eagle twice said the Nets have other irons in the fire as free agency winds down.

“You’re getting the sense that they’re going to run it with the team that they had,” Eagle told Brian Rabacs and Will Tallant. “They’re not looking to strip it down. There might be more deals in place here to attempt to balance out the roster. I still think they need another point guard. I still think they need another big ... I know they’re working on other things.”