Hall of Fame legend and TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal thinks the Portland Trail Blazers should do Damian Lillard a “solid” and trade him to a contender. Sounds nice and cool in theory. But the truth is, Lillard made his bed in Portland and now he has to sleep in it.
“The organization should do him a solid and trade him to a contender,” Shaq said on The Big Podcast. “They should use him to get younger pieces because they’re never gonna win there. I would do that if I was management.”
Lillard Wanted Out Of Portland
Lillard had plenty of chances to pressure management to build a contender, which he did behind the scenes, sources told The Shadow League, but they were unable to deliver another high caliber player.
It all reached a head in the summer of 2021 after another first-round playoff exit and Lillard was set to demand a trade. Chris Haynes, then of Yahoo Sports, one of the most plugged-in NBA news-breakers reported it. As did TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott, a longtime well-sourced NBA journalist.
There Will Be Backlash When A Superstar Wants Out
The chatter started to build, as it often does when big-name stars are mentioned in potential trade demands, and Lillard immediately went on the offensive, saying there was no truth to the reports.
Of course, this was the position Lillard had to take, as we all remember his “running from the grind” comments aimed at Paul George in 2020, who left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lillard is the “loyalty” guy. The superstar who stayed in an era of elite players joining forces. He would look bad if he did the same, since he was so public about his stance.
The reality is he couldn’t handle and doesn’t like the criticism. Unlike other superstars who choose to pursue the team situation that makes them happy. That’s why he bucked back when it was reported that he wanted out.
Now, if you watch Lillard’s moves since and his messages on social media it’s clear what he’s decided.
He knows he will never win a championship. A luxury by the way he is afforded because his entire career has been unexpected.
Drafted out of Weber State 2012, nobody expected him to be an elite NBA player capable of leading teams to championships. But that’s a credit to Lillard and his work ethic that he became one of the best players of this era. A seven-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA player.
But none of it was expected. When you exceed expectations you have the luxury of not worrying about being criticized in the media for not winning.
When you’re a “can’t miss” generational prospect or a multiple time MVP, titles are what people expect. Not winning is a failure, despite the fact that a championship is a team award.
Lillard Made His Choice
By the time Lillard’s current contract ends (2027) he will have played 15 seasons in Portland and earned approximately $450 million in salary. Nearly half a billion dollars. He’s made generational wealth for his family.
He made his choice, knowing that the organization wasn’t going to ever be able to build a real contender around him, and he chose the money. That’s not shade or casting any kind of aspersion. Players should be allowed to play for whatever reasons they want. It’s their lives and careers.
But the organization doesn’t owe him any favors, nor should they do him a “solid.”