Damian Lillard Responds to Blazers Trade Rumors: 'These Mfs Love Drama Too Much'December 6, 2021
Is the clock running out on Dame Time in Portland?
Thus far, Damian Lillard hasn't said as much. Amidst a report from Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic that Lillard "still wants significant changes to the roster," would like to play with disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons and that tensions are mounting between players and first-year head coach Chauncey Billups, Lillard posted the following on his Twitter account Monday morning:
Regardless of Lillard's tweet, something appears to be brewing in Portland amid the team's 11-13 start. The team already fired former president of basketball operations and general manager Neil Olshey after an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct, and Billups went in on the team after Saturday's 145-117 loss to the Boston Celtics.
"Competitive fire and pride, that's something you either have or don't have," he told reporters. "That's something you can't turn off and turn on. ... I've never seen a team that needs its bench to inspire our starters. That s--t is crazy to me. It's supposed to be the other way around."
While the Blazers as an overall unit have struggled, so has Lillard. The 31-year-old is averaging 21.5 points, 7.8 assists and four rebounds per game, shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from three.
Lillard has never finished a season shooting less than 41 percent from the field or 34 percent from three, so his shooting woes are surprising, and he hasn't averaged fewer than 25 points per game since the 2014-15 season, his third year in the league.
A number of factors—an abdominal injury, Billups running less pick-and-roll than his predecessor, Terry Stotts, and the NBA's rule changes contributing to less perimeter fouls and Lillard getting to the line just 4.5 times per game, the lowest mark since his rookie season—are likely contributing to his down season.
As for Lillard's reported desire to play with Simmons, that seems unlikely. Charania and Amick reported that before Olshey was fired, he had "discussed the framework of a trade for Simmons, moving CJ McCollum, a first-round draft pick and a young player such as Nassir Little or Anfernee Simons to Philadelphia. The 76ers, sources said, at one point asked the Trail Blazers for McCollum and multiple draft picks and multiple draft swaps, which Portland rejected."
Unless the Blazers are willing to move closer to Philly's trade demands, it seems more likely that Lillard would have to join the Sixers if he wanted to play with Simmons than the possibility of being paired with him in Portland materializing.
And outside of trading Lillard, it's hard to envision the Blazers having the current pieces to make a huge splash on the trade market. Unless Portland turns things around, Lillard's best route to a championship contender still appears to be getting traded to one.