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NBA not happy with Lillard’s Heat-Superteam-or-bust trade demand; implications for Harden to L.A.?

The NBA has apparently issued a warning to all 30 teams, regarding the way Damian Lillard and his agent are handling this trade demand out of Portland. Is James Harden’s situation similar?

Amazon Music and Friends in the Desert Photo by Natasha Campos/Getty Images for Remy Martin

According to Shams Charania, of The Athletic and Stadium, Adam Silver and the NBA issued a league-wide memo on Friday, regarding Damian Lillard’s trade request stance. In case you’ve been lost at sea this summer and just returned, the Trailblazers’ superstar has been doing everything he can to force a trade to the reigning Eastern Conference Champs, the Miami Heat to play with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

It appears as if Dame’s Heat-or-Bust attitude is rubbing the league’s Commissioner, and likely other key players, the wrong way.

Released by Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, who is apparently close with Lillard (and seems to have been trying to get his guy to South Beach applying a bit of pressure on the Blazers franchise himself), here was the full memo:

Per Haynes:

“Recent media reports stated that Damian Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, called multiple NBA teams to warn them against trading for Lillard because Lillard’s only desired trade destination is Miami. Goodwin also made public comments indicating that Lillard would not fully perform the services called for under his player contract if traded to another team.”

Some members of the local media in Miami also appear to be stanning hard wielding whatever platform they have to see Miami’s and Lillard’s wishes come true.

In the league’s new CBA, there are some actual terms.

According to Article VI on Player Conduct, Section 18, regarding Trades, here’s how it reads:

“Any player (or, for clarity, any player representative or person acting with authority on behalf of a player) who publicly expresses a desire to be traded to another Team shall be subject to a fine and/or a suspension.

The maximum fine that may be imposed by the NBA on a player pursuant to the foregoing shall be $150,000.”

It’s clearly chump change for a player as wealthy as Dame D.O.L.L.A. so he may not care. But if the league considered a suspension, then that might get his attention.

I can’t say I’m buying this rumor below, but one reporter even thinks a veto could be in play, since Lillard’s camp is acting so inappropriately.

But if nothing else, the sentiment gives one a sense for how some in league circles may feel about a superstar, with up to $216M due over the next four seasons, overtly dissuading 28 teams from trading for him.

In the memo Haynes dropped for us, it states that Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, “denied stating or indicating to any team that Lillard would refuse to play for them.”

I didn’t say he would REFUSE to play, I just said he’d be really, really miserable and mopey so you’d be making a huge mistake if you trade for him!

But Heat fans members of the Miami media, back in early July, made it clear Goodwin is just covering his ass now reported verbiage that appears contradictory:

A reigning All-NBA team member, who accepted a $196M supermax, then an extension on top of that, with four years on his deal remaining, doing all he can to get himself traded to a Heat team who have made it to the NBA Finals seven times in the last 18 seasons (more than once every three years on average over a near two-decade stretch), a Heat team who have made the Conference Finals in three of the last four seasons, is frankly, pretty weak more than a little extreme.

Fact-checking that note above about Paul George and Kevin Durant: PG apparently made his Clippers trade request privately to the Thunder, and KD made his Suns request privately to the Nets. There was no evidence either attempted to proactively diminish his own trade market by dissuading other teams from acquiring him. And both OKC and the Nets got major, major draft capital in return, the likes Pat Riley’s Heat simply cannot offer Portland.

The first time PG requested a trade from Indiana, he didn’t get where he wanted to go and landed in OKC.

As for Anthony Davis, while a member of the Pelicans, he requested the Lakers, landed there and his camp was actually fined. AD landing in L.A. and winning a title may actually be the playbook Dame is trying to model here. But this time, there’s no Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, a healthy, promising Lonzo Ball, the no. 4 overall pick, plus two additional firsts to offer.

Then there are names like Jimmy Butler (in Minnesota), Kawhi Leonard (in San Antonio) and Kyrie Irving (in Cleveland). Those stars all provided multiple teams for their own general manager to haggle with. And none of those players landed where they were hoping to go. Two of those names had even won championships for their respective squads before asking out. Lillard may be the greatest Blazer of all time, but he hasn’t hit an NBA Finals-winning shot like Irving, or won a Finals MVP to cap a dynasty like Leonard. Those fanbases got to enjoy the ultimate payoff before saying their farewells. Leonard didn’t want to go to Toronto but he sure made the best of the hand he was dealt.

As for James Harden, when he initially wanted out of Houston, he told the Rockets he was open to playing in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. And Houston was able to gain a massive package for him from the Nets.

He only asked to be in Philadelphia when he wanted out of Brooklyn. But he was on an expiring contract back in 2022, and had considerably more leverage than Dame has now, given his then-pending unrestricted free agency.

This time around, Harden’s camp has made clear he still “intends to play for the Clippers.” But unlike the current Lillard situation, Harden doesn’t have this major market to work against. It seems as if the Clippers are the only current team to have demonstrated real interest in acquiring The Beard anyway.

So it makes sense Harden’s position, while it may not be the NBA’s favorite, isn’t as troubling to them as Dame’s entitled maneuvering current stance.

We’ll see now if Goodwin denying the idea Dame wouldn’t willingly play for any team who trades for him brings other teams into the mix. Months ago, Lillard also said he’s open to playing for the Nets, and Haynes said there was an outside chance the Sixers would work as well.

You probably remember when ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said if the Sixers offered Tyrese Maxey, “Dame Lillard might be in Philly right now, but they are not.”

We’ll see if perhaps both his camp and Harden’s counter by leaking an openness to play for a couple unrealistic trade teams. Harden could name Boston, knowing Daryl Morey would never. Dame could name the Bucks knowing there’s just not a deal to be made.

It’s a quiet time in the NBA. Maybe when the Dame and Harden shoe’s drop, there will be more rumors to work with. For now, we have the mere threat of action from the NBA, hoping to soften Dame’s apparent Miami-superteam-or-bust stance.

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