Out of the NBA playoffs in the first round for the fourth time in the last five seasons following their Game 6 loss to the Denver Nuggets earlier this week, the Portland Trail Blazers made the decision to move on from head coach Terry Stotts on Friday.
It was a move that clearly left superstar Damian Lillard a bit stunned, with Lillard noting that he “loves” Terry and that he will “miss him.” And that was enough to get the rest of the NBA monitoring just what’s going to happen with Lillard and the Blazers as the sides move forward, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
“Sources say several NBA teams — including those in the top markets — are already intensely monitoring this situation in Portland and how it develops to look for an opening to make trade offers,” Charania wrote.
Now, to this point, there’s nothing to indicate that Lillard wants out of Portland. He’s always seemed completely, fully committed to winning with the Blazers, and his super-max contract extension begins next season. He’s even talked about the coaching vacancy in Portland, and has said that they would like the Blazers to hire either Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups.
But quotes like Lillard’s one to Shams, where he outright says, “I feel down about [Stotts’ departure], because I’m not much a fan of change” are certainly enough to get the rumor mill churning.
And it’s obvious why just about everyone should be interested in a potential Dame trade.
One of the NBA’s purest shooters, Lillard is coming off a 2020-21 season that featured 28.8 points per game, and a six-game postseason run that featured a career-high 34.3 points per game. Lillard is also just one year removed from a year of career-best marks, from his 30.0 points per game to his 46.3 percent field goal percentage and 40.1 percent mark from deep.
The Celtics, of course, could be looking for their first big move in the wake of Danny Ainge’s retirement and Brad Stevens’ promotion to president of basketball operations. And what a first move it would be, assuming Stevens and the Celtics would not only be willing to enter the bidding war, but also stomach the astronomical asking price the Blazers would demand.