The fallout from the blockbuster three-team trade that sent Damian Lillard to the Bucks after a decade with the Trail Blazers continues, as additional details emerge about the contentious divorce between the superstar point guard and his longtime franchise.
A story from Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes published Thursday detailed some of the ways in which the relationship between Lillard and the Blazers broke down in the months following the 2022–23 season, but the reality is that tension began to rise well before the summer. For instance, the two sides reportedly found themselves at odds in the closing weeks of the previous season over the 33-year-old’s availability.
According to Haynes, the struggling Blazers approached Lillard and asked him to sit out the team’s final 10 games. The reasoning behind the request was so Portland could improve its odds in the 2023 NBA draft lottery and then purportedly use the better pick as a trade piece to acquire another veteran to play alongside the seven-time All-Star point guard.
Lillard was reluctant to do so, per Haynes, but eventually agreed to adhere to the team’s request. The Blazers posted a 1–9 record while Lillard sat out those 10 games. The point guard was officially ruled out with a calf injury, and Portland finished the season 33–49.
This is significant reporting. The NBA is attempting to combat façade injuries with new LM rules, but it’s something fans have always suspected. To have it not only confirmed, but used to manipulate lottery odds is another thing. Cant blame fans who feel trust has been broken. https://t.co/enWNBMIJ2x pic.twitter.com/UwhQtsyNyp— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) September 29, 2023
Portland went onto land the No. 3 pick in the draft, which the front office used to select point guard Scoot Henderson, paving the way for the team to trade Lillard just over three months later.
Lillard now will get his wish to play on a contender in Milwaukee, as he’ll team up with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to form the league’s newest superstar trio. The Blazers will look to begin a rebuild around pieces such as Henderson and former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton.