Is time on Heat or Blazers side in Damian Lillard situation?

Q: Could the Heat have executed a sign and trade of either Gabe Vincent or Max Strus or both in the trade with Portland? Then there would have been no problem moving Tyler Herro to get additional salary matching. – Robert, Pembroke Pines.

A: For all of the Trail Blazers’ apparent consternation of the market being closed down on them by Damian Lillard’s singular relocation request, there is another greater truth of currently being boxed in at the moment. Had the Blazers moved with haste and forethought, they could have traded for the Heat’s No. 18 pick ahead of the draft and utilized it how they saw fit (perhaps even packing it to move up), instead of potentially now having to make fit the Heat’s choice of Jaime Jaquez Jr. And, as you mentioned, had the Blazers moved in concert with the start of NBA free agency, there could have been better salary-filler options, such as to the third party of Heat free-agency moves or even, and this has mostly gone overlooked, worked with Victor Oladipo’s salary, which instead was offloaded to the Thunder. From there, a move at the start of free agency also would have allowed the Blazers to best fill out their roster with post-Lillard pieces. Instead, seemingly paralyzed by overanalysis of the fallout of a Lillard deal, they systematically have reduced their paths toward closure. I do wonder how Blazers ownership views all of this.

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Q: The national media has been gaslighting the Heat fans. They dismissed them as a bubble team in 2020, being the No. 1 seed in 2022, and disrespected their playoff run in 2023. For four years they have been saying the Heat and their players aren’t that good. And now they again are poisoning the waters with this Damian Lillard trade, making it seem that the Heat have no talented players outside of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (who they don’t vote for as Defensive Player of the Year). My question is this: I assume none of this matters, as NBA front offices know the real value of Heat players right? I mean would Joe Cronin allow national media-created public perception to stop him from making a deal? – Dave, Placentia, Calif.

A: I would think not. But the fact that this waiting game continues only further fuels the media cycle. And that ultimately could leave even more explaining to do when a deal is made. If I’m the Blazers front office, I’m selling arguably the NBA’s most dynamic young backcourt, in Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons. And the only way you can start selling that is to stop selling the notion of Damian Lillard potentially still being in your mix.

Q: The NBA has now spoken out on the Lillard trade to the Heat, and it appears it is not happy. Also the Trail Blazers are not interested in what the Heat have to offer for the trade. Doesn’t it appear to you that this isn’t going to happen and the time has come to move on?– Bob, Davie.

A: If you’re giving me even odds on a potential Damian Lillard trade to the Heat, I still believe it is more likely to happen than not. And if the Heat are thinking the same way, then you wait as long as it takes. Perhaps at the start of the season, as Pat Riley did with the Josh Richardson-Jimmy Butler talks with the Timberwolves at the start of 2018-19, you shut it down. But there currently still is plenty of time to wait. So you wait.

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