Brooklyn Boro

Damian Lillard rumored to be interested in Nets

Portland's All-Star point guard could be dealt to Brooklyn

April 27, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Damian Lillard had a front-row seat for the Brooklyn Nets’ Game 3 loss to Philadelphia at Downtown’s Barclays Center on April 20.

Though he didn’t stick around for the Nets’ elimination here on Saturday, the Portland Trail Blazers’ seven-time NBA All-Star point guard could find himself in a Nets uniform come next season.

According to several reports, Lillard could slide right into the Brooklyn lineup, alongside swingman and Nets leading scorer Mikal Bridges, if general manager Sean Marks opts to invest some of the first-round picks he’s amassed the past two seasons in a bona fide superstar.

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Marks intimated Sunday during the team’s exit interviews that he believes the Nets have a “bright pathway” ahead of them, be it via a slew of prospects in the NBA Draft or by way of trade.

“We have a young group here that is wanting to compete, so we’re going to be going after it every year,” Marks noted.

The Nets “went for it” in a big way back in the summer of 2019, bringing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush in the hopes of grabbing the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.

Nearly four years later, Irving is in Dallas and Durant was shipped to Phoenix.
The dynamic duo did bring Marks a haul of picks, including four first-rounders in the Durant deal.

Overall, Marks picked up five unprotected first-round selections in the February swap meet. He also had two picks left from the trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia in February of 2022, a deal that landed enigmatic swingman Ben Simmons here.

Simmons has only suited up for Brooklyn 42 times since, and was unavailable during the stretch run toward the postseason as well as the Nets’ four-game sweep at the hands of his former team due to back and knee issues.

Nets swingman Ben Simmons could be involved in a potential deal for Portland point guard Damian Lillard this summer, according to The Bleacher Report. AP Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

While he may be in an untradeable position due to his lack of production the previous two seasons, Simmons still has two years left on his contract, as does Lillard.

The match may not be perfect, but it would be a feasible swap if Marks threw in the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie and/or Joe Harris as well as a first-round pick.

Lillard told ESPN earlier this month that he is not interested in undergoing a rebuild with the Blazers, who finished safely out of the Western Conference playoffs with a 33-49 mark.

Portland hasn’t reached the postseason since 2021 and was eliminated in the first round in consecutive years after getting swept by Golden State in the 2019 conference finals.

“It ain’t a threat. I ain’t gonna say I’m putting (the Blazers) on the clock. I’m just saying if those things can’t be done—if we can’t do something significant like that—then we won’t have a chance to compete on that level,” said the 32-year-old Oakland, California native.

“And then, not only will I have a decision to make, but I think the organization will, too,” he added. “Because at that point, it’s like, ‘Are you gonna go young, or are we gonna get something done?’ I think we just kinda been on the fence with fully committing to either one. I just think we at that point know where everybody wants to win. They believe I deserve that opportunity.”

Cam Johnson, who came to Brooklyn along with Bridges in the Durant trade, will be a restricted free agent in June, just as Marks and the Nets are figuring out what to do ahead of the NBA Draft at Barclays.

Putting Bridges, Johnson and Nic Claxton alongside Lillard would give Brooklyn a strong foursome to contend with next year.

That group, sans Lillard, grabbed the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference this past season, a disappointing end to a campaign that began with championship expectations after the Nets rose as high as second in the East before the deadline deals.

“You’re positive with this group, because this group has shown a lot of resiliency to fight through some things, come together quickly in a hurry, on the fly,” Marks said Sunday.

“So as a collective, from the coaching staff and the players, I think they did a tremendous job. And again, like I’ve said before, there’s a pathway for this group to continue to grow individually and as a team together. So it’s an exciting pathway.”

Nets forward Cam Johnson will be a restricted free agent this June as Brooklyn begins its offseason quest to reshape its roster. AP Photo by Jason DeCrow

Even more so if Lillard, clearly at an impasse on his future in Portland, makes his way to Brooklyn this summer.

“I think in this day and age, we’ve all seen players demand trade players behind the scenes, ask for this,” Marks said.

“Teams change, whether it’s ownership groups or front offices, and next thing you know, they pivot. So we just have to be ready for whatever comes our way. And if we can make a change that we can compete, we’ll be strategic about it.”

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