The 2021-22 season hasn’t been anything to write home about for Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard just yet. If you were present at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Monday night, then you know 76ers fans don’t give a damn about Dame’s early-season woes. The Philly crowd didn’t waste much time showing Lillard how they felt about him early in the first quarter.
Philly is home to one of the boldest fan bases in sports, and they showed no shame at all, chanting, “we want Lillard,” while he shot free throws less than four minutes into the game. Blazers first-year head coach and former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups even had to smirk at the raucous Philly crowd. And Ben Simmons is supposed to want to return to this? Yeah, that’s not happening anytime soon.
Over the last five years, Lillard has played his way into becoming one of the top players in the NBA and is arguably a top three at the point guard position. The slump he’s in currently shouldn’t worry Sixers fans, but many of his averages are down significantly across the board. Points per game (18.6), field goal percentage (34.9 percent), three-point field goal percentage (23.1 percent), player efficiency rating (14.7), etc. Lillard’s assists are up to 8.6 per game, which is the highest of his career. That’s the mark of a great player right there. Even when struggling, you can find other ways to help your team, and that’s what Dame seems to be doing.
Lillard is standing firm on wanting to stay in Portland, but he heard those fans in Philly. Having lived in Portland for a while, I know that fan base, and as fabulous as they are, no group of fans will go to bat for Dame the way Philadelphia fans will should he end up a Sixer. Lillard will play his way out of this slump at some point, but I just don’t think the Blazers or the city of Portland is ready to part ways with Lillard. He’ll have to request a trade since he isn’t the type to make a big fuss and engage in a bunch of shenanigans like Simmons.
The next few months leading up to the NBA trade deadline should be interesting. Simmons still wants out of Philly and hasn’t played a game yet this season, and it’s been reported that the top player on Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey’s mind is Lillard. If this trade has any chance of happening, Morey will most likely need to sweeten the pot for the Blazers to seriously consider this. Oh, it’s going to be another fun season of NBA front office positioning. Good times peeps.