Loyalty has two outcomes
- You remain so loyal that it sparks lifelong happiness and a legacy which can not be touched.
- You remain so loyal that the happiness is drained out of you in an attempt to build that legacy.
The latter is where Damian Lillard appears to be as he enters the twilight of his career.
Lillard has remained super loyal, almost to a fault, shutting down any rumor that he wants out of Portland. Part of me embraces Lillard fully for taking that route. It’s what the greats of my childhood did. He’s tried to build a legacy in Portland like Dirk did in Dallas, Duncan in San Antonio, Kobe in Los Angeles.
But the glaring vacancy is the ring, and it is one that you can not overlook. So where do we go from here?
“I’m not asking for a trade. I don’t know how many times I have to say it.”
Dame remains adamant that he doesn't want to be traded from Portland and wants to be the part of the solution and winning. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/jtzFQoREAA
— Jason Dumas (@JDumasReports) December 8, 2021
Lillard wants to be apart of the solution, not bail town and leave the franchise bare. But what if I told you the best way for Lillard to help the franchise he loves is to accept the circumstances and ask out.
Lillard and the Blazers peaked in 2019, and it didn’t end with a championship. No, it ended with a clean sweep by the Golden State Warriors, who were injured.
Since then the Blazers have been stuck in that daunting place, somewhere between irrelevancy and prosperity. They can’t rise above the 6th seed since the top half of the Western Conference is too good most years.
Make a major trade? Show me the desirable assets the have outside of Lillard.
But what about landing a star in free agency, somebody must want to play with Lillard right? Yeah people want to play with him, but the franchise is in salary cap hell.
The Blazers have no way out of this gray area as long as Lillard remains. With Lillard lacing up the Blazers won’t ever fall out of the play in tournament and into the lottery. He is simply too good to allow that to happen.
But with Lillard also taking up majority of the cap, could be north of $50 million per year if he gets his next extension, plus playing in the north west, there is not much Portland can do to add to the roster.
Both parties are stuck in a relationship where neither can blossom any longer. The only solution is a divorce, maybe the most graceful one in history.
If and when the Blazers trade Lillard, the fan base will send Lillard out the door with roses at his feet and with welcoming arms when they retire his jersey. Lillard can find himself on a championship caliber team instantly, in the Eastern Conference so he is not directly competing against the franchise he loves.
The Blazers would get assets in return that could spark the next decade of the franchise, hopefully into a better version than Lillard leaves them.
For example the Celtics scenario could land the Blazers Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and future picks.
A 76ers trade could get them Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, future picks etc.
It would then allow the Blazers to trade off of CJ, Nurkic, Covington, and any other asset a win now team would cherish. The rebuild would become exponentially faster, making the pain of losing Lillard and this group that much easier to digest.
Sticking it out with this core, aging and regressing together will make the Blazers a tough watch in a year or two, further souring the legacy which they had when at their best.
I know Lillard believes he is being the good captain, steering the ship in the right direction or going down with it. But truth is he’d be doing a great service to both himself and the franchise if he simply signs the divorce papers rather than going to couples counseling.