By 750 THE GAME STAFF
Damian Lillard and agent Aaron Goodwin met in-person Monday with general manager Joe Cronin and Trail Blazers brass to discuss the future direction of Lillard with the franchise.
Lillard has recently returned from a vacation trip to Paris that drew headlines.
Cronin defended his selections of three rookies with the team’s three draft picks instead of packaging one or any of them in a potential trade to land a win-now piece to appease Lillard’s wishes to have a contending roster around him.
The draft came and went. No “win-now” piece has been acquired.
With free agency set to officially begin this Friday, and the team meeting in-person with Lillard on Monday, this week feels very important for Rip City and their all-time leading scorer.
Sam Amick of The Athletic detailed on Monday what he understands of Lillard’s wishes for the team this off-season, given their less-than-favorable inaction during the draft.
One step for Cronin is to re-sign forward Jerami Grant. That seems doable given Grant’s desire to stay in Portland after a productive 2022-23 season, and the team holding his Bird Rights which allows them to resign Grant despite being over the salary cap.
Lillard’s other wish? To team up with a longtime Rip City enemy.
Amick reports that Lillard wants Draymond Green, who officially became a free agent after turning down his $27.5 Million player option with Golden State.
That could be harder to pull off, given Portland’s cash-strapped situation.
Golden State and Green seem to have a mutual desire to reunite, but the price discussion could leave room for Portland to slide in, says Amick.
Enter the Blazers, who could make Green the unofficial savior in this sensitive Lillard situation while giving him a chance to add to his legacy in a different jersey after 11 seasons with the Warriors. Except for one (massive) problem: As is the case with so many of these scenarios, it would take some serious salary cap wizardry by Cronin to make this happen.
Amick says Cronin could explore the sign-and-trade market to land Green, but that remains a narrow path.
There are sign-and-trade pathways to be explored, and likely with a third team needing to be involved, but it’s an implausible prospect to say the least. And again, all signs point to Green wanting to stay put.
The odds are slim to land Green, says Amick, despite Lillard’s wishes. Even slimmer are Lillard’s secondary wishes to acquire either Pascal Siakam or O.G. Anunoby from Toronto.
Where does that leave Lillard? Writes Amick:
The farther you go down this list of potential ways to calm the Lillard waters, the more likely it seems that he’ll be forced to face this stay-or-go fork in the road soon.
Owner Jody Allen has joined Cronin in selling Dame on a win-now effort, Amick writes, but this week will reveal their level of commitment and ability to back up those claims.
If Cronin and his staff are truly trying to scour the league for another star, following through on the messaging that sources say Lillard has received from both Cronin and owner Jody Allen, then Lillard likely won’t make a final decision on how to play this until the early stages of the free agency period have passed. But if they’re not, as a recent ESPN report seemed to suggest, then the prospect of Lillard asking out might be around the corner.
What if the meetings this week don’t work for Dame?
Amick says the next move is clear.
“It’s all eyes on Miami from there.”
Read the full piece from Amick on The Athletic here (subscription required).