The story about Damian Lillard wanting out of Portland could be best described as the calm before the storm. The Blazers got a bit of time to show Dame they surrounded him with talent and a new coach that can follow Dame to the Larry O’ Brien trophy. But best believe every GM with a competitive package is waiting to see how the Blazers season starts – none more than Daryl Morey.
Latest reports say the 76ers are OK with Simmons not playing a single minute all season (and fining him for every one of those minutes missed), sending a message they will not sell low on the Australian socialite. We all know Morey is interested in superstars, and a Dame and Embiid pairing is on the top of his list. But, if Dame decides Larry Nance Jr. and Chauncey Billups are not enough, Stephen A. Smith claims New York will be his preferred destination.
I know what you’re thinking, but this time it seems Stephen A. isn’t just preparing another NYC homer segment for First Take. His explanation makes a lot of sense.
He [Lillard] believes he’d be able to recruit if he was in New York. He doesn’t want to join a superteam. He wants to create his own if he has to go that route. … His view is that he would be able to recruit, for what I’ve been told. That you’ve got guys that would want to come and play with him if he was not in the Pacific Northwest, and he were in a market like New York.Stephen A. Smith, The Lowe Post
Carmelo’s trade from Denver to New York taught everyone what happens when the team you’re going to has to trade everything they’ve got to get you. Once he arrived, Melo had no one to build a championship team with, nor did the Knicks have the draft assets to make moves. Superstars learned from that and tried to force trades so their preferred destination didn’t have to overpay. The Knicks have certainly remembered that. Dame may be the exception to that rule.
Lillard actually may want to go to a team where he’s the first star there and then recruits others. That way, stars joined him, not the other way around – that would help him defend all those songs and tweets about not chasing rings. He won’t be joining a superteam if there’s no superstar on the team he was traded to.
Now, I would never imply Lillard would let the Knicks know he’s cool if they trade their best players for him – that would be tampering, and we know the NBA is very diligent about enforcing rules they make official. But if Stephen A. talks about it, I’m sure the Knicks would feel confident to put a lot on the table to get Dame and then build a contender around him. That doesn’t mean trade everything – you still need assets to make further moves.
The fact Lillard pressed pause is also a good indicator of New York’s chances. While Philadelphia can trade Simmons and whoever else right away, New York can’t do the same. Given CBA rules, anyone who signed a new contract or a contract extension can’t be traded until December 15th.
Just don’t include Quickley in the package – given the amount of love Knicks fans have for him, that may cause a riot.