Report: Damian Lillard Rumors About Ben Simmons Trade, Contract Extension Are False

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 8, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) dribbles upcourt against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

There is reportedly no truth to rumors that Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard wants to play with Ben Simmons or that he seeks an extension from the Blazers.

According to Chris Mannix of The Crossover (h/t HoopsHype), people from Lillard's camp told him the rumors are false, as Lillard has expressed no interest in the Blazers trading for Simmons and has not engaged in contract extension talks since he isn't yet eligible for a max extension.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Lillard's interest in playing with Philadelphia 76ers guard Simmons on Monday, while ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that Lillard's representatives have been "privately selling the idea" of the Blazers rebuilding around Lillard and signing him to a two-year, $107 million extension when eligible in July.

While Lillard's camp is seemingly denying the validity of the rumors, both of them make sense on the surface given how things have gone for the Blazers this season.

After making the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons, Portland is off to a disappointing 11-14 start this season and is trending in the wrong direction.

Defense has been the biggest issue for the team this season, as it ranks 26th in the NBA, surrendering 111.3 points per game.

Acquiring Simmons is a move that could improve the Blazers' team defense significantly, as he finished second in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting last season.

While Simmons has his deficiencies, including shooting 59.7 percent from the free-throw line in his career and making only five three-point field goals in four seasons, his skill set would seemingly fit well alongside Lillard.

Simmons is an elite defender with 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game in his career, and he is also a quality playmaker with 7.7 assists per game to his credit.

The 2016 No. 1 overall pick has not played this season for the Sixers after asking for a trade during the summer. He is currently working on mental health away from the team.

Charania and Amick reported that former Blazers general manager Neil Olshey discussed the framework of a potential Simmons trade that would have sent guard CJ McCollum, a first-round pick and a young player to Philly.

Olshey has since been fired, however, following allegations he created a toxic work environment with a culture of bullying.

With the Blazers seemingly in turmoil from top to bottom, a rebuild is also something that could make sense from Lillard's perspective.

While playing alongside McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic over the past several years has been enough to get Lillard and the Blazers to the playoffs, they haven't often done much damage once in the field.

Portland may need to tear it down and rebuild around Lillard if it wants to have any chance of becoming a championship contender in the near future, and if the team misses the playoffs this season, that could be the catalyst to make it happen.

For now, though, Lillard's camp is sending out messages that suggest he is fine with going to battle with his current teammates and trying to turn this tough season around.