It seems to be a question of Whennot if regarding the inevitable trade of disgruntled Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard to the Miami Heat.
The 33-year-old and seven-time All-Star point guard has had a permanent exchange request in place since early July, with the Heat as their target destination as they look to leave Portland.
Lillard’s fixation on the Heat is so strong that the NBA had to send a memo to all 30 teams after Lillard’s reps reportedly told interested teams he only wanted to approve a trade to Miami.
But even though Lillard and his camp remain committed to trying to broker a deal to join Jimmy Butler at South Beach, that hasn’t stopped Celtics star Jayson Tatum from making a concerted pitch to the most successful goaltender.
In an interview on the “Sports by Northwest” podcast, ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that Tatum called Lillard after his trade request became public and tried to sell Boston as a potential destination for him.
Despite Tatum’s best efforts, Spears added that Lillard remained focused on landing in Miami.
“He has a bit of a military basketball mentality. He wants to work. Also, the stability of the organization, the winners, as if they had been in the Final what, seven times since 2006? Obviously Bam and Jimmy help, no state taxes help, the sun helps,” Spears said of Lillard’s vision for the Heat. “And I think at 33, he’s looking at the landscape out West and it’s like Mmmm… II think my chances are better going East, and if Miami is able to qualify for the finale without someone like me, what can they do with me? So you don’t make that decision unless it’s a calculated risk.
“And I know Boston, I know Jayson Tatum called him, is trying to talk to him, but he’s definitely focused on Miami.”
Even if the Celtics kicked the tires of a potential Lillard blockbuster earlier this summer, it apparently wouldn’t have led to much traction.
“Whether it’s the Clippers or the Celtics, those are two of the teams that have shown some interest in Dame Lillard,” NBA insider Shams Charania said in July. “The answer was a resounding no. He wants to be in Miami, period. And if you trade for him, I think there is the risk of trading for an unhappy player.
“You don’t want to trade for a guy that you could bring in and he’ll either be unhappy or unhappy or [and] I could ask out again.
Tatum and Lillard have a lot of history together, as the two played together for Team USA in the 2020 Summer Olympics (finally played in 2021), eventually winning a gold medal in Tokyo.
In 2021, Tatum acknowledged that Lillard and Kyrie Irving were the other two NBA stars he would choose to take the final shot in a tight game.
Although Lillard’s touchdown will boost the Heat (or whatever team he lands with), the Celtics moved on quickly after Lillard turned his full attention to Miami. Boston finally added another star to partner with Tatum and Jaylen Brown by signing big man Kristaps Porzingis in June.
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