The Heat-Portland Trail Blazers stare down on a potential Damian Lillard trade continued early this week amid national reports that Portland’s recent focus has been discussions with other teams, not Miami.
“There has not been conversation really this summer, perhaps since July, with Portland and Miami,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Tuesday. “What Miami looks at essentially is we don’t believe you have something better than you know we can give you.
“And teams don’t just spend their time calling [and saying], ‘Let me offer you more, let me offer you more.’ That’s not a negotiation. There’s a lot of gamesmanship in how this goes.”
A source said this week that Portland generally has continued to be reluctant to engage the Heat in serious talks and has acted disinterested in getting a deal done quickly with Miami, though that conceivably could change as the start of training camp approaches in early October.
As Wojnarowski said, the Heat “want Damian Lillard. They just want him for as little as they’re going to have to give up. They’re essentially daring Portland to go out into the marketplace, which Portland is doing, and see if they can find better….
“The goal isn’t to just get Damian Lillard. It’s to get Damian Lillard for as little as you have to give up to be able to still have the ability to put a team around Jimmy Butler, Lillard, Bam Adebayo in Miami.”
Whether another team — besides Miami — makes a competitive offer remains the unknown. Action Sports Network NBA writer Matt Moore said the Toronto Raptors have “kicked the tires” on Lillard.
As ESPN’s Zach Lowe said, one general manager asked him: “Are we going to turn into a weigh station for Damian Lillard until he gets to where he wants to go?”
If Lillard is traded to a team other than Miami, he is expected to ask to be traded to the Heat.
“I think there are teams that will trade for him,” Wojnarowski said. “But it’s a little bit of a negotiating crutch where you tell Portland, ‘Hey, I’m not offering you everything we might because we’re taking risk here.’
“He says he only wants to play in Miami. That kind of dulls the offers a little bit. Portland is trying to put together a number of multiteam scenarios to see if they can get the assets back they want.”
As for Lillard, he has remained measured in various recent podcast appearances after privately requesting a trade to Miami on July 1.
Asked on the “Come and Talk 2” podcast if he wants to stay in Portland, he said: “In a perfect world, I could spend my entire career in Portland.”
Asked about his trade request on the “Back on Figg” podcast, he said, among other things: “You don’t want the same thing no more and you show me that you don’t want the same thing. We don’t want the same thing.”
And asked by the “Come and Talk 2” podcast about playing in Golden State — near his hometown of Oakland — he said: “As far as like Golden State, I respect what they’ve been doing over the last eight, nine years or whatever and I’m from there obviously. That’s home.
“But I can’t be a part of that. They’ve won four championships… Like, what I look like going to try to do that and say, ‘oh I’m joining my home team.’ Like no.”
Keep in mind that Adebayo has thrived offensively against Porzingis throughout his career.
Per NBA.com, when Porzingis has defended him, Adebayo has scored 40 points in 46 minutes on 15-for-27 shooting from the field and 10 for 10 from the line. That NBA tracking data goes back five seasons.
That included a game in which Adebayo feasted on the Wizards last November, with 36 points — including 26 against Porzingis, who was traded to Boston in June.
On the flip side, removing Memphis-bound Marcus Smart from the Boston equation could help Miami, but not as much as it might appear. Nearly every Heat player scored with great efficiency when guarded by Smart in this past season’s Eastern Conference finals.
We won’t get a full picture on how the Heat and Celtics match up this season until there’s clarity on a potential Lillard trade.
But it’s questionable if the Celtics are in better position to overtake Miami after adding the injury-plagued Porzingis and losing Smart and Grant Williams. Lillard potentially could tilt the equation.