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 will end the seven-time All-Star’s tenure with that team, two people familiar with the matter said Saturday.
Lillard will generate interest from the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets, among others, according to the people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no details were announced publicly. One of the people told the AP 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 elsewhere.
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.
But 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 points 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.
He had a 71-point game this past season against Houston, has 17 games of at least 50 points in his career — two of them in the playoffs — and is a past rookie of the year, teammate of the year and winner of the NBA’s citizenship award. He’s even an Olympic gold medalist, winning one alongside Miami’s Bam Adebayo at the Tokyo Games and raving at times about how much he enjoyed playing with the Heat center.
The only glaring omission on Lillard’s resume: 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 did, 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.