For about three hours on Friday, Damian Lillard felt like he was on his way out of Portland. Some reports surfaced that the six-time All-Star planned to request a trade, others already began to list his preferred landing spots. Then, Lillard set the record straight … or … at least he tried to.
While he denied reports of a trade request during an interview with media members after a Team USA practice in Las Vegas, I don’t think anyone walked away thinking it could not happen in the near future. Lillard admitted he saw some positives for the Trail Blazers, but he also continued to call them out for an organizational plateau:
“We reached that point where it’s not enough,” Lillard told USA Today. “Do we actually want to win it all? Is that what we’re shooting for, and we got to do things to show that. We have to put action behind that desire to win at that level.”
• Quotes like that should not make GM Neil Olshey or owner Jody Allen feel any more secure about their future with Lillard. I mean, this sounds like the talk one person in the relationship has to the other before ultimately breaking their heart a few weeks later. “Do we actually want to get married? Is that what we’re shooting for, and we got to do things to show that. We have to put actions behind that desire to be in a relationship at that level.”
• Anyway, Mark Medina has all the most important nuggets from that Lillard conversation below:
Blazers' Damian Lillard refutes report of trade request, but wants front office to be 'more urgent' https://t.co/YjdNNJIN0q
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) July 16, 2021
• Whoa, crazy! League sources told me the same thing!
League sources tell me I want Damian Lillard traded to the Bulls.
— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) July 16, 2021
• While I’m sure Arturas Karnisovas is on his 15th Red Bull while he watches film on every second-round prospect imaginable, the Chicago Bulls also have to keep free agency at the top of mind. Four days after the draft on July 29th, the free agency flood gates open, and the Bulls must be prepared. Not only do they have to decide how to proceed with Zach LaVine’s contract situation, but they also have to track down their next starting point guard. Lonzo Ball has been the most popular name tied to Chicago since the trade deadline, and he is expected to be a hot commodity in a rather lackluster free-agent market this offseason. We learned earlier this week via The Athletic the Pelicans are unlikely to match a significant offer sheet for the restricted free agent, but how significant is significant?
• The Athletic’s John Hollinger used his BORD$ projection to estimate how much each free agent should get paid this offseason. Ball finishes with the 7th-highest salary, which Hollinger places at roughly $22.5 million per year. As a ceiling, Hollinger said he could see Ball getting a four-year $100 million deal from a desperate team. Considering my personal ceiling would be Hollinger’s original projection, I do feel a bit uneasy about how this all might play out. While I want the Bulls to grab Ball, the last thing I want them to do is vastly overpay. This team still has many roster holes to fill, and a big contract to hand LaVine. Making sure some financial flexibility still exists is key.
• Another name to look out for this summer: Devonte’ Graham. I plan to write more about him next week, but he is another restricted free agent I have to imagine the Bulls have on their list. Hollinger projects his value to be roughly $19 million. I don’t see him getting that big of a contract, but we’ll see.
• LaVine wants to stay in Chicago. The guy has made that more than clear. At the same time, Bulls fans can not feel completely safe until a new contract is signed, and stats like the one below is exactly why.
When/If Team USA wins 4 straight games in the Olympics, it will be Zach LaVine's first 4-game win streak while playing since his lone season at UCLA in 2013-14
(The Bulls won 7 straight in 2017 during LaVine's ACL recovery)
— Kevin Anderson (@Kevin_NBCS) July 17, 2021
• GET THAT GOLD BOYS!
• You can go chill with Mike again. Maybe go hate-watch the new Space Jam with him.
The best statue in sports 🐐
The Michael Jordan statue (“The Spirit”) is available for public viewing in the United Center atrium!
Monday-Friday: 8 am to 6 pm CT
Weekends: 10 am to 6 pm CT pic.twitter.com/9SKD1FeBFR
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) July 16, 2021
• We already knew this was coming, but it’s finally being put in the fine print.
The NBA and the Players Association have agreed to extend the play-in tournament format through the 2021-2022 season, sources tell ESPN. The league’s Board of Governors will make it official in a formal vote soon.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 16, 2021
• I’m interested to see what the Bulls decide to do with their two-way spots this season. I expect Devon Dotson to return (and play in Summer League), but I would not be surprised if Arturas Karnisovas signs a different undrafted free agent in Adam Mokoka’s place.
– No 45 day limit but capped on games on the active list
– Salary is 50% of a rookie minimum ($462,629)
– No deadline for a Two-Way player to sign a contract https://t.co/xodt2kTpkE
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 16, 2021