Damian Lillard’s trade request remains the biggest story in basketball. That will continue to be the case until the Portland Trail Blazers work out a deal and find the seven-time NBA All-Star a new home.
It's well known that Lillard prefers the Miami Heat, but ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported Wednesday that he would've welcomed a Bay Area homecoming if that possibility still was on the table.
“[The Warriors] had another choice. They could have waited for Dame,” Shelburne told 95.7 The Game’s Mark Willard and Dan Dibley on Wednesday. “Dame is from the Bay Area. I know he was interested.
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“If he got to the point where he was going to ask for a trade and the list was given [to the organization], the Warriors initially would have been on that list. But now it’s not possible because of the move they made [trading for Chris Paul].”
Lillard, who grew up in the East Bay and graduated from Oakland High School, is under contract for the next four seasons. He'll make $45.6 million in 2023-24, $48.8 million the following season and an estimated $58.5 million in 2025-26, and has a $63.2 million player option in 2026-27. He'll be 36 years old when that contract expires.
The respect between Lillard and Warriors guard Steph Curry runs deep. But the Golden State front office is focused on getting the most out of its championship core of Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and moved quickly for Paul.
Golden State Warriors
Thompson enters the season on the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in 2024. The Warriors will have more flexibility to work with next summer because Paul's $30 million price tag for the 2024-25 campaign isn't guaranteed.
"They could have waited [for Lillard]," Shelburne told 95.7 The Game. "I think they did the smart thing by trading for Chris Paul when they did because [the front office] preserved optionality, plus they get a really good player."
Portland reportedly plans to wait out the market to land the most lucrative return in a Lillard trade. It might not be the Heat who ultimately wins the Lillard sweepstakes, but it certainly won't be the Warriors.