"Welcome to Toronto."
Those three magic words could make anybody's heart skip a beat, but when you're the hottest trade commodity in the NBA, they're certainly enough to cause an extra jolt.
Last week’s blockbuster three-team trade that sent superstar point guard Damian Lillard to link up with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks sent shockwaves around the league, but before that deal went through, Lillard was tricked into thinking he was heading to Toronto thanks to Raptors’ forward OG Anunoby.
As the Lillard trade rumours ramped up, the Raptors emerged as one of the teams interested in consummating a deal to acquire the seven-time All-Star from the Portland Trail Blazers. All the while, a three-word text message sent to Lillard from Anunoby had the franchise star believing his next home would be north of the border.
Speaking with Chris Haynes of NBATV, Lillard recalled the prank that Anunoby pulled on him before he was eventually dealt to the Bucks.
“Obviously everything was up in the air,” Lillard said.
“I was on the phone and I just got a random text from OG like: ‘Welcome to Toronto.’ ”
The prank Raptors forward OG Anunoby pulled on Bucks star Damian Lillard that shocked him days before actual trade: “Welcome to Toronto.” pic.twitter.com/kSJ4WAAIKv
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 3, 2023
Lillard explained that he and Anunoby spent some time training together during the offseason and that the defensive specialist is always joking around with him. Anunoby’s text really seemed to fool Lillard, as he abruptly ended a phone call he was having with Haynes at the time to find out if the message was legit.
“I was like ‘man let me call this dude and see,’ ” Lillard said.
“I finally called him, he didn’t answer, then he called me back and he was laughing. It just caught me off guard, like I know it didn’t happen like that.”
Anunoby is no stranger to hearing his own name in trade rumours, having reportedly been an asset the Trail Blazers were after in exchange for Lillard. Even before that, the British forward saw his name frequently brought up last year in potential scenarios that could land Kevin Durant when the then-Brooklyn Net requested to be moved.
With one year remaining on his current deal, Anunoby is expected to turn down any potential contract extension offers from the Raptors, according to the latest reports from Marc Stein. For what it’s worth, Anunoby spoke at media day on Monday saying that he loves Toronto and “wants to be here.”
Both he and his Raps’ running mate Pascal Siakam are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2023-24 season.