When the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t trade Damian Lillard to Miami, the relationship between the two sides got a little rocky. The wounds from that bitter divorce are still at the top of everyone’s minds. Especially, with how both sides handled the trade request and subsequent move to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Sooner or later, talks will be had. Emotion will be down and that will heal itself. I really believe that.”
Whether Blazers fans want to believe it or not, Lillard is arguably the best player in franchise history. He is currently the all-time leader in several categories including scoring and points per game, three-point field goals and Player Efficiency Rating. He’s second in assists and No. 6 in steals. During his tenure in Portland, Damian Lillard averaged 25.2 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game. He’s a seven-time NBA All-Star and took the home the Rookie of the Year award in the 2012-13 season. He’s also a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team.
“At the end of the day,” Billups continued. “What Dame did for the organization has never been done before. He’s gonna go down as the greatest. And also what this organization did for Dame was incredible. They had an incredible two-way relationship for the entire time.”
Billups was moved multiple times in his playing days both as player trying to establish himself and as a franchise leader. So he understands it from a player’s perspective. For the most part Billups didn’t get involved in the trade talks, he left that to General Manager Joe Cronin.
“Until it got to a point where it was real. Then, it’s, ‘Let’s talk about it, but I wasn’t in the day-to-day. It’s not my job. Obviously, it impacts my job. You stay close enough or far enough to trust Joe and his staff to do their thing and to have me in mind.”
Lillard and Billups had a close friendship before the latter landed the coaching job in Portland. That friendship stayed strong through the drama.
“We’ve had several [conversations], even when it first started [the trade request], I already knew, even however this goes, it’s not gonna change our relationship, our friendship. We talk about very personal things, we talk about hoop at times. And we’ve talked several times since it’s been over. I’m happy for him.”
Lillard is still trying to find his place with the Bucks. Currently averaging 24.3 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds on 40% shooting and 29.3% from 3-point range.
It started to get a little dramatic once it was perceived Lillard wouldn’t get his preferred destination of Miami.
“We all felt it, on the daily, It’s something coming out every day. You can’t run away from it. You can’t ignore it. At all. You give it the little you give it at the time, knowing there’s little you can do to affect it, and you keep it moving.”
After a while, things will settle down. Billups is a firm believer that once they do, Lillard will come back to opened arms by the Blazers franchise and its fans.
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