Getting LeBron James to join your team is a boost to your organization in so many ways. First, you get one of the best players -- possibly the best player -- to ever grace the basketball court. But another benefit is that having LeBron on your roster tends to attract other stars who want to play alongside him for the chance to win titles.
The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping this is the case for them, which makes All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard's tweet on Wednesday morning even more interesting.
A fan asked Lillard how he would feel if the Portland Trail Blazers traded him to Los Angeles to play with LeBron James. There are many answers that would have been typical: "I don't think about those things, I just play basketball." "I'm a Blazer until someone tells me otherwise." "I want to finish what I've started here in Portland." Also an option: not replying.
Instead, Lillard raised some eyebrows.
I’m typically a happy camper https://t.co/LvFoTwlEFW— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 4, 2018
This response might seem harmless, just a player telling his fans that he tries not to get worked up about situations out of his control, like being traded to another team. But there is more than meets the eye with this potentially innocuous tweet.
Lillard had a mysterious meeting with Blazers owner Paul Allen in January, reportedly to discuss the team's direction. From ESPN's Chris Haynes:
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Allen feared Lillard would request a trade, sources said, but a trade request was not made. The two-time All-Star made it clear, though, that he has championship aspirations and wanted to fulfill those lofty goals during the remaining years of his prime window.
After a strong finish to the season, the Blazers secured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, but suffered an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, leaving many to question whether the combination of Lillard and backcourt-mate CJ McCollum can ever lead Portland to playoff success.
Also, Lillard was clearly upset that the Blazers allowed former teammate Ed Davis to agree to a deal with the Nets on the first night of free agency. Lillard called Davis a friend and a "comfort blanket" back around the trade deadline, and tweeted a broken heart emoji when the news broke early Sunday morning.
July 1, 2018
All this to say, sometimes a tweet is not just a tweet. Lillard could have ignored the question about LeBron and the Lakers, but he willingly let it be known that he'd be a "happy camper" if the Blazers traded him. Portland clearly has some question marks about its future, and owes Lillard nearly $90 million over the next three seasons. The Blazers have been swept in the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years, so it will be interesting to see if they consider moving Lillard or McCollum.