The rise of social media has brought a time of unprecedented access that fans have to their favorite athletes. Gone are the days of the mystique of superstars like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as athletes such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant have brought a candidness to NBA royalty that we have never seen before. This has naturally spilled over to succeeding generations of NBA talent, with one of the most engaging superstars in the league right now being one with a substantial fan base due to his dazzling on-court play and fierce loyalty to his team - Portland Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard.
Dame has some of the best interactions with fans on social media, one of the latest involving a fan who placed a significant bet on the Blazers winning 42 games. The fan mentioned Dame when tweeting about this, and Lillard responded with a simple “Say no more.” More importantly, he delivered on his promise by blowing out Denver for their 42nd win of the season. Because of this, fans only want to see him succeed, and in this day and age for the NBA, success comes in the form of championships.
However, due to several factors, this is not always possible, and even when it is, plans and key roster moves do not always result in championships. When all has been tried, and the result has yet to come, many believe that this is the point where the two parties go their separate ways. It is not that simple, of course, because you never really know how a player will develop, so it's natural not to want to let a talent like Damian Lillard go. The fans want to see Dame win and have taken to social media to share their ideas on what Dame’s next career move should be.
One particular fan suggested that perhaps joining Donovan Mitchell in Utah would be the way forward for both the Jazz and Dame. Utah had a disappointing second-round exit at the hands of the hobbled Los Angeles Clippers, while Dame put on a few superhuman efforts only to be bounced in the first round by the Denver Nuggets. No doubt this would be a great move on paper as it would bring Donovan Mitchell and Damian Lillard together, forming arguably the best backcourt in the NBA, but the fact of the matter is the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Portland is not without assets, and in fact, they have several promising young players on their roster that could help contenders or even middle-of-the-pack teams get over the hump. The issues for the Blazers are all rooted in how these pieces come together, particularly on the defensive end. The obvious answer for Portland right now is to keep Dame and see how they can shift their identity into one that translates into more wins and possibly championships, a team that can score with the best of them but also plays defense to keep them competitive when not everyone is on fire.
Dame wants to stay in Portland; that much is clear. But he also wants to win, and to do so, he may need to take matters into his own hands. Recent reports revealed Lillard is very engaged with the organization's future - he joined the interview with Chauncey Billups, a candidate for the head coaching position. Forcing your way out of Portland is not the only way to do this, though, and it might not even be the best way.
We have seen situations in the past wherein a player wants out and therefore loses some negotiating power in the trade process, leaving the disgruntled star’s next destination with a roster that has been slightly gutted. Then you go into the buyout market or searching for value at the veteran’s minimum to build your supporting cast, and that is never a sure thing. There have been rumblings about CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons, and perhaps many more rumors will start to surface in the coming weeks. But if you’re Portland, these are the type of deals you want to make and not one that puts you on the path to a complete rebuild. For the Blazers, they have to believe that any deal involving Damian Lillard is doing just that.
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