There came a moment in early September, when Damian Lillard had sat down in his home with Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin, where it became clear to the future Hall of Famer that he would not get traded to the Heat. Lillard said in that case, his preference and plan was to return to the Trail Blazers and be there for training camp.
Cronin said no, Lillard could not return to the team at this point.
Those tidbits and more come from an inside view of the trade from Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s perspective by the well-connected Chris Haynes of TNT/Bleacher Report. From his story:
In the Sept. 5 meeting, Cronin conveyed that if he was forced to do a deal with Miami, he had every intention of going after every attractable asset. Lillard knew then he was unlikely to end up in Miami.
Lillard then said if a deal couldn’t be worked out with the Heat, he would prefer to rescind his trade request and return to the Trail Blazers. Cronin’s response to the seven-time All-Star was that there was no coming back.
To very publicly ask for a trade and then return to training camp would have been a massive distraction for the Trail Blazers — a team trying to turn the page to a new era. Cronin and Lillard’s relationship may have deteriorated and Lillard may have been frustrated, but it’s easy to see where the Blazers GM was coming from.
Hayne’s story — which is worth reading in its entirety — has comments and insights directly from Lillard and Antetokounmpo. That includes Antetokounmpo talking about losing Jrue Holiday, who was traded to Portland in the deal (and will be flipped to another team).
“Jrue is my f****** brother for life. I love his family. I love him. I appreciate him. I wish him nothing but the best. He blessed me with a f****** championship. He’s the one who made that huge steal in Game 5 of the Finals. I went to battle with him multiple times. F*** basketball. F*** the media s***. This guy is my brother for life, and it’s always going to be like that. He’s going to thrive wherever he ends up.”
Lillard also talks about the opportunity before him.
“My whole life I’ve been on underdog teams and if we had a good season, we overachieved. Now I’ll be able to play with a player that’s better than me and to be a part of a great overall team is a dream come true. That’s never been my experience. It’s time for me to be in this situation.”
The question now is what Lillard will do with this opportunity, but he couldn’t have landed in a better situation to chase a ring.
Source: Yahoo Sports