Damian Lillard is calling his shots. Portland’s all-time leading scorer is ready to leave the only team he’s ever played for.
Damian Lillard has said repeatedly that he wants to contend for a championship. After 11 years in Portland, he has decided he needs to move elsewhere to make that happen.
Lillard asked the Trail Blazers for a trade, a move that would end the seven-time All-Star’s tenure with that team, two people familiar with the matter said Saturday. The team later confirmed that Lillard had made the request.
“We’ve been clear that we want Dame here but he notified us today he wants out and he’d prefer to play someplace else,” Portland general manager Joe Cronin said in a team statement Saturday. “What hasn’t changed for us is that we’re committed to winning, and we’re going to do what’s best for the team in pursuit of that goal.”
Lillard is generating interest from the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, among others, per multiple reports. One of the people told The Associated Press that Lillard’s preference is Miami — the reigning Eastern Conference champion — though that hardly guarantees the Trail Blazers will work to facilitate that specific move.
Lillard is coming off a season in which he averaged 32.2 points for the Trail Blazers. He is a seven-time All-NBA selection and was selected to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team — but he has never been close to a title in his 11 seasons in the league.
He has met with Portland multiple times in recent weeks, asking for the roster to be upgraded to the point where he can compete for a championship. But those efforts, evidently, have not gone to Lillard’s liking and led to him asking to be moved.
His decision was revealed on the second day of NBA free agency, after Portland made a huge splash on the first night by reportedly retaining Jerami Grant with a $160 million, five-year deal.
For as great as his resume is, Lillard hasn’t enjoyed much in the way of postseason success. The Blazers have won only four playoff series in his 11 seasons, making the Western Conference Finals once during that span. The team went 33-49 this past season, the second consecutive year of finishing well outside the playoff picture.
Lillard became the all-time leading scorer in Blazers history, passing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler for the mark, in a Dec. 19 games in Oklahoma City. He is the only player in franchise history with seven All-NBA honors and one of three players to be named to the All-NBA first team while with the Trail Blazers (2017–18). He is a seven-time All-Star, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year and a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
He also won an Olympic gold medal, getting one alongside Miami’s Bam Adebayo at the Tokyo Games and raving about how much he enjoyed playing with the Heat center.
Aside from being the Blazers’ top scorer, Lillard is also No. 1 in 3-pointers made and attempted by a large margin as well as Portland’s all-time leader in free throws made and free throw percentage. He ranks in the team’s top five in games played (769), assists (5,151) and field goals made (6,281) and attempted (14,299).
Lillard is, by any measure, a dynamic player. He has averaged at least 24 points per game in each of the last eight seasons, and his career average of 25.2 ppg ranks fourth among active players (with at least 375 games) behind Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid and LeBron James. If that list was expanded to all players with no game minimums, Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson and Trae Young would also be ahead of Lillard.
The only glaring omission on Lillard’s resume is a championship. And now he’ll seek a move to change that.
“I would say I want to be remembered for who I was, not as a player, but the principle that I stood on regardless of how successful I was, how major the failure was, the criticism, what people thought I should have done, what people think of me … no matter what was happening, I want to be remembered for who I was,” Lillard said in an interview with former teammate Evan Turner for the “Point Forward” podcast earlier this year. “I stood tall. I’ve stood tall in every situation and I want to be remembered for that.”
It will take some team — whether it’s Miami, Brooklyn or anyone else — a massive haul of probably both players and draft picks to persuade Portland to trade Lillard. He will make almost $46 million this coming season and could make as much as $216 million over the next four years if he exercises his option for the 2026-27 season.
While Lillard was beloved in Portland, there was speculation about his future with the team when the Blazers took point guard Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft rather than package the pick for a proven star.
In an interview with Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com a day after the 2023 Draft, Cronin was asked if the franchise was in danger of losing Lillard and said the following:
“No, I don’t. I think Dame badly, badly wants to win and he’s probably being more vocal about that than ever but I don’t look at that as a negative. I look at that as he’s passionate about this, it matters deeply to him and it matters deeply to us. I think the reason you haven’t seen major issuers from us or the reason you still see Dame in our gym everyday or still meeting with [coach] Chauncey [Billups] and I constantly is because he wants us to work. He’s bought in, he wants it to work here and he’s challenging us to get it done, which I think is more than fair and he’s earned that.”
The Blazers signed Henderson to a rookie contract on Saturday. The 6-foot-2 teenager who has been compared to Russell Westbrook spent the past two seasons with the NBA G League Ignite.
Last season with Ignite, Henderson averaged 17.6 ppg and a team-high 6.5 apg. He graduated early from high school in Marietta, Ga., to become the youngest player ever in the G League.