“We have been clear that we want Dame here but he notified us today he wants out and he’d prefer to play someplace else,” Portland general manager Joe Cronin said in a statement Saturday. “What has not changed for us is that we’re committed to winning, and we are going to do what’s best for the team in pursuit of that goal.”
Lillard’s preference is to be traded to the Heat, a source told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears. Lillard also has deep respect for the San Antonio Spurs organization, sources told Shelburne.
Front offices talking to Portland on Saturday were left with the impression that Cronin is pursuing a star-level return package for Lillard, and that the GM plans to look well beyond the Heat to find one, sources told Wojnarowski.
The Blazers are expected to value deals that would bring them back young players and draft assets.
Lillard had contemplated requesting a trade when he met with the Blazers and Cronin on Monday, but wanted to give them every opportunity to improve the roster as free agency opened so he remained as quiet and supportive as he could this week, sources said. On Friday night he made the decision to ask for a trade.
Lillard has stuck with the franchise that chose him with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA draft through two seasons in which Portland did not make the postseason following eight consecutive trips. But after the Blazers opted to use their No. 3 pick in last month’s draft on guard Scoot Henderson, the future direction of the franchise was clear.
Though free agent deals can’t be formalized and signed until Thursday, Portland still intends to sign Jerami Grant to the five-year, $160 million contract the two sides agreed upon Friday, sources told ESPN.
Should Lillard leave, it will be after an 11-season run in which he made seven All-Star and All-NBA teams and led Portland to a Western Conference finals appearance in 2018-19. He ranks first in Blazers history in both points and 3-pointers and second in assists.
Lillard, who turns 33 on July 15, had a career year last season, averaging 32.2 points and 7.3 assists, but played just 58 games as he sat out the last month. The highlight of Lillard’s season came Feb. 26 against the Houston Rockets when he exploded for 71 points.
His points per game would be the most by a player to change teams the following season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.