NBA Warns Damian Lillard, Agent About Miami-Only Trade Stance
In a memo sent to all 30 teams, the league warned that Lillard and Aaron Goodwin could face punishment in the future.
From the moment Damian Lillard officially requested a trade out of Portland on July 1, it was understood that the only team he wanted the Trail Blazers to trade him to was the Miami Heat.
In the ensuing weeks, not much has happened. Lillard's agent, Aaron Goodwin, spoke on the record with multiple media outlets and indicated that he had been advising teams other than the Heat against trading for Lillard. At a press conference in Las Vegas on July 10, Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said he'd be patient in any potential Lillard trade talks, going as far as to say: "If it takes months, it takes months."
Since then, nothing—until a Friday evening news dump of a memo the NBA league office sent to all 30 teams about the public and private posturing from Lillard's camp that Miami was the only team he'd accept a trade to.
The existence of the memo, which I have obtained, was first reported by The Athletic. It reads in its entirety:
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It's worth noting that Lillard himself has said nothing publicly about the situation. He's been out of the country for much of the summer, did not attend Summer League in Las Vegas as he usually does, and has not given any interviews. His social media posts since July 1 have largely been focused on his family and his summer basketball camp for kids.
Goodwin, however, has been very public about the Miami-or-bust stance. On July 6, he confirmed to the Miami Herald that he had been in contact with other teams telling them Lillard only wanted to be in Miami. He subsequently made similar comments to other outlets, with the intent of discouraging non-Heat teams from getting into the bidding.
At his July 10 press conference at Summer League, Cronin said it would be easier to satisfy Lillard's trade request if he gave him more than one team he wanted to go to.
"We've got to find the right deal and find the right makeup of the team that we can move forward with," Cronin said that day. "You hope you can find a perfect situation where that lines up, and he goes to a place where he wants to and you get the best return possible. It's complicated and it usually doesn't work out just like that, but my history has shown … I've done this with C.J. McCollum and Josh Hart, where we've worked together to find good landing spots while getting a fair return to the Trail Blazers. It's possible, but there's a lot of work involved, and it often involves more than just one destination."
Thus far, sources say there have been no meaningful, substantive Lillard trade discussions between Portland and any other team, including Miami. While it is not known what if any formal offer the Heat has made for Lillard, their collection of available assets isn't thought to be nearly enough for a player of his caliber, or commensurate with what other star guards like Donovan Mitchell and Dejounte Murray have fetched on the trade market in the past year.
In truth, the NBA's Friday memo probably doesn't have a lot of teeth to it and was sent out more for optics than anything else. In 2019, Anthony Davis was fined $50,000 after his agent, Rich Paul, went public with his trade request. At that point, Davis had a little more than a year left on his contract with New Orleans and made it known he wanted to be traded to the Lakers. That deal ultimately happened that offseason. In recent years, other stars, including Paul George and Kevin Durant, were able to get traded to the teams they wanted, with the biggest difference being that those players fetched far stronger returns of players and draft capital than anything Miami could currently offer Portland.
Putting aside Lillard's own thoughts—which we have not heard directly from him since all of this started—the current standoff is a defining moment for both Cronin and Goodwin.
As a relatively new general manager who by his own admission "failed" to build a contender around Lillard, Cronin needs to maximize his return in any deal for the franchise's leading scorer and prove he won't be strong-armed into giving him up for pennies on the dollar.
And Goodwin, if he's able to get his client to his desired destination, may start to be viewed around the league in the same light as Paul or one of the legacy agencies like CAA that can get their guys where they want to go.
It remains to be seen whether Lillard is traded before training camps open on Oct. 2. It's always possible another team comes in with an offer Portland finds compelling, although there has been no traction on anything thus far. If Miami can turn Tyler Herro into meaningful other assets, maybe Lillard ends up there, although the team willing to give up more than a protected first-round pick for Herro has yet to emerge.
If Cronin doesn't get a deal he likes, he's signaled that he's prepared to take Lillard into the season, as the Nets did with Durant last summer. Nobody really bought it in early July when Lillard's camp tried to float the idea that he'd sit out or not report to camp if he's not traded or ends up somewhere other than Miami, and the league's memo reaffirmed the notion that Lillard will show up and play wherever he is in October.
The only thing that can be said for sure is that this isn't going to be over anytime in the next few weeks, if not longer.