Mannix and Beck take a deep dive into Damian Lillard's future in Portland—along with potential trade partners that could emerge in the coming weeks—Ime Udoka's introductory press conference in Boston, USA Basketball's roster (and Kevin Love's place on it), the Mavericks' new regime, a shake-up in the Utah front office and more. Subscribe, rate and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts!
Chris Mannix: Let's start this discussion with Damian Lillard, which is the big story right now out of Portland. It's getting interesting out there. On Sunday the Blazers made the hire of Chauncey Billups official. That came just hours after Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes – who is close with Lillard, reported that the coaching search, the Blazers roster, as well as backlash from the fans about Lillard's role in the coaching search, could push Lillard to ask for a trade. So, Howard, what do you make of the latest developments in the ongoing Damian Lillard saga?
Howard Beck: So fascinating on a bunch of levels, Chris, not least of which is this. The Blazers have been out for how many weeks now? And in the wake of their season ending, there was no sense that Damian Lillard was ready to start pushing for a trade or start agitating about the future or feeling the need to make a move. Now, you know, losing faith in the organization, even in the wake of the Terry Stotts firing, the first thing we heard from Lillard was, "I would love for Jason Kidd to be the coach," not "I don't care who the coach is because I may not want to be here anyway." It wasn't that. So something's changed just in the last couple of weeks, and we can get into some of the things that have happened just in the last few days that maybe have changed the landscape a little bit. But it seems to me that Lillard, if he was really concerned primarily with the Blazers' ability to surround him with, with the kind of talent to win championships, then whatever buttons he was going to push, whatever agitating behind the scenes he was going to do, and whatever would leak out about that could have been weeks ago. Not "I want Jason Kidd to come coach me." So the fact that he's doing this now, I think it feels like it's pretense, like citing the roster or anything else about the Blazers' ability to build around him, feels like a pretense for something else. And I'm not sure what that is. Maybe just the backlash he's getting from Blazers fans about the perception that he had something to do with Chauncey Billups's being hired. And we'll get into why that's controversial. But it feels like any discussion of Lillard is concerned about the Blazers as an organization and their ability to win championships feels like pretense because he could have made those concerns known weeks ago when he was instead trying to pick his next coach.
Chris Mannix: Damian Lillard to me is like the guy trying to break up with the girlfriend for the first time. You know he wants to do it, but he just doesn't know how to do it. And I've had this feeling ever since the end of the season came to an end. If you remember, Lillard, who has become an expert at cryptic Instagram posts, had one where he basically said, "How many times do I have to keep doing this and not achieving?" I'm going to butcher the line from the song that he posted up there. But he seemed to open the door for change after the season ended against Denver. And you know what? I don't blame him. If the Portland Trailblazers couldn't beat the zombified Denver Nuggets, who were without Jamal Murray, what makes anyone believe or makes Damian Lillard believe that they can beat a top-tier team in the Western Conference over the next couple of years? He's just handled this very ham-handedly. Like, I don't think we've seen the proper way to go about asking for a deal. That Damian Lillard would want out is completely understandable. He's in his early 30s right now. He's looking at this Blazers team, which is in something of a transition phase in hiring a new coach, and looking at the roster and saying, "How, over the next three years, am I going to be able to be on a championship level? To put myself in a position to win a championship?" Because as we look at this Portland team right now, are they better than Utah? No. Are they better than Phoenix? No. Are they better than the Clippers or the Lakers? That's not even mentioning some of the teams are coming up behind him that are really good. Those younger teams that are going to start making some noise as early as next season. Look, I think Damian Lillard wants out, and I'm basing that almost entirely on kind of reading the signals that are being sent publicly by Damian Lillard.
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