Training camp starts in two weeks, but it seems Damian Lillard is no closer to seeing his wish come true than when he first expressed it two and a half months ago. Evidently concluding that the Blazers will not get any closer to being contenders in the foreseeable future, he turned the hitherto unthinkable — changing addresses — into a desire. And, to their credit, they have been trying to accede to his demand, albeit with a caveat: They will not deal him for pennies to the dollar, even (and, perhaps, especially) to the Heat, whose colors he said he prefers to don in the coming season.
If the pro hoops grapevine is to be believed, the Blazers have ramped up talks on Lillard’s departure to the point of likewise engaging with other potential trade partners. Whether one on one or as part of a multilateral effort that includes the Heat, however, their ultimate intent remains the same: They want equal value, and they’re willing to wait until they get it. And if they don’t, they’re also ready to treat their top scorer and playmaker as a rental from here on. They fully expect him to lead the charge for as long as he is in black and red.
For all of Lillard’s posturing, the bottom line cannot be denied: He lacks any leverage on the matter. And with the league office arguing in no uncertain terms that players need to honor terms of their contracts, he cannot even use the threat of a holdout to light a fire under the Blazers’ backsides. They have their own timetable, and they’re bent on following it. It’s why the Heat, who initially entertained thoughts of adding an All-Star for a bargain, now appear inclined to pivot to other options. After all, time waits for no man — not even for him.
At this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to where Lillard will land. The Heat continue to be the frontrunners for his services, if for no other reason than because they know he will be fully engaged upon his arrival; it won’t be the same elsewhere, or if he stays with the Blazers. Nonetheless, the latter hold the cards, and they’re keen on going all in.
POSTSCRIPT: Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI) and Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, Inc. (CCFPI) recently held the Coca-Cola Charity Golf Classic 2023 and raised over P5 million in pledges as a result. The Sta. Elena Golf Club played host to close to 150 captains of industry, partners, and customers — a significantly higher number than last year’s festivities.
CCBPI CEO and President Gareth McGeown noted the tournament’s importance in “build[ing] stronger bonds with our partners and provid[ing] an avenue to gain a larger support for our beneficiaries. Proceeds from the 2022 endeavor were used by CCFPI for initiatives by the AHA Learning Center — an award-winning, internationally recognized non-profit organization — to target high-potential public school students through an Empathy Informed Learning system.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.