The Los Angeles Lakers rallied back from a 25-point deficit on Sunday night to beat Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers 121-112.
Not only did this defeat drop Portland to 21-25 on the year, but it also led to an uncomfortable exchange between Lillard and reporters after the game.
Essentially, Lillard was asked about his future with the Blazers in light of them losing three straight and being 2-8 in their last 10 games.
The 32-year-old didn’t like that very much.
“I’m confused why you all are asking me these questions right now, honestly,” Lillard said.
“I respect it, but the bottom line is, we at the mid-way point of the season and we’re struggling right now, we’re not playing really well, we’ve been in a lot of these games, none of these games are just like we getting blown away. So I think as far as basketball goes there are things we can do to be better and we win some of these games.”
Lillard didn’t stop there, though.
“The struggles that we’ve had are obvious but I don’t think it’s fair for you all to be asking these questions right now,” he continued.
“I think that’s kind of a weak move. Our team is struggling and I’ve been transparent about our struggles and stuff that we can do better. But you all are putting me in a position to answer questions and I don’t think that’s cool. I think that’s a lack of respect putting me in that position.”
While Lillard’s frustration is understandable, so are the questions surrounding his future in Portland.
Just last week a report surfaced that the Lakers, specifically, might be a team to watch for Lillard.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix and Howard Beck, someone like Lillard is precisely who could allow L.A. to salvage LeBron James’ remaining time in the NBA.
“Internally, I’m sure the Lakers are selling James on an offseason when Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard becomes available, and L.A. swoops in with its picks to acquire them,” Mannix said.
It is worth remembering, Jovan Buha of The Athletic suggested something similar in late December.
“The Lakers have interest in Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal if any of the three stars were to become available,” he wrote at the time.
Obviously it is easy to scoff at rumors like this, but don’t forget how close Lillard has come to becoming a Laker in the past.
The reality of the situation is that the Blazers are heading nowhere fast.
L.A., meanwhile, isn’t great either, but at least they are just two games back of the sixth-place Los Angeles Clippers despite consistently trotting out James and spare parts on a nightly basis.
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This is the sort of move the Lakers have been keeping their picks for. Not Buddy Hield and whatever else the Indiana Pacers desperately want to get rid of.
At some point in the near future the Blazers and Lillard will need to figure out what make sense for both parties long-term. And the likeliest answer will be a trade.
When that happens, will the Lakers be the team to swoop in and do what they did when they stole Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies? Time will tell.