Damian Lillard thought he was going to be traded to the New York Knicks

Trail Blazers All-Star Damian LIllard has said many times that he wants to become not only the greatest Trail Blazers of all-time, but also the longest tenured player.

Of course, Trail Blazers fans have supported Lillard’s quest to become the best player in franchise history.

That’s something all of Rip City has gotten behind.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]

In a recent Vanity Fair interview, Lillard was asked numerous questions with topics ranging from attending Black Lives Matter protests to how competitive he is as a person to his music career and who has influenced him in the music industry.

But, there was one question that stood out for any Trail Blazers fan reading the Vanity Fair questions from contributing editor Lisa Robinson, who was also a longtime music columnist for the New York Post prior to joining Vanity Fair.  

Robinson said: «As a Knicks fan, I wish you would come here. Madison Square Garden is so great.»

Now let’s stop right there.

Rip City Faithful has witnessed and heard on many occasions Lillard’s commitment and desire to be a Portland Trail Blazer for the rest of his career.

But, what about the Blazers commitment to Lillard? Was that ever in question?

Here’s Lillard’s answer to the question above:

I thought I was headed there a few years ago; I was hearing trade rumors. The Garden is my favorite place to play. — Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard in a recent Vanity Fair interview

So why were those rumors never really reported?

Or were they?

Thinking back a couple of years ago, there were two reports that come to mind.

Jan. 22, 2018, Yahoo Sports NBA Insider, Chris Haynes, who at the time was with ESPN, wrote a piece about Lillard meeting with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen.  

Haynes wrote:

The two met discreetly for approximately one hour in Allen’s office at Moda Center before hosting the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, sources said. It was the first home game Allen attended in 2018.

Lillard, who will turn 28 on July 15, requested the meeting in part to reaffirm his commitment to the only professional franchise he has suited up for, but also to gain assurances that the organization was just as devoted to expeditiously crafting a title-contending team, sources said.

….

Allen acknowledged the roster imbalance but questioned why the team had suffered through an inconsistent first half. Lillard issued a heartfelt vote of confidence for head coach Terry Stotts, sources said.

They also discussed players to target. The New York Times’ Marc Stein recently reported that the Trail Blazers are one of the teams trying to engage in trade talks with the LA Clippers for big man DeAndre Jordan, but the Clippers haven’t had any serious offers.

In addition, Lillard sought an explanation from Allen as to why Will Barton was traded to Denver in February 2015, sources said. Lillard made it known he didn’t agree with the move. Barton is a penetrating, spot-up shooter — the type of player Portland could use on the wing.

According to Haynes, Paul Allen was worried that Lillard would be the one to request a trade, but a trade request was not made.

So is it possible that the Blazers were trying to get out ahead of what they thought Lillard was going to propose?

It’s possible.

What does everyone always say, again?

Oh yeah…  It’s a business.

And in this case, it was a time to play chess, not checkers.

And then there was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith rambling on about potential trade partners with the Knicks and the Lakers or what Smith believed were Lillard’s options after he mentioned Lillard’s camp was open to a trade in early July 2018.

Even as the number three team they are clearly not an elite team that’s going to make any noise in the postseason. Portland recognizes this, and as a result, you have people in Damian Lillard’s camp and on his side looking for him to leave. And he is open to leaving, even though he loves being in Portland. — Stephen A. Smith

Smith continued, discussing where he believed Lillard wanted to end up. One of which was New York.

«If Damian Lillard is going to leave the comfortable and financially beneficial confines of Portland, it’s only for two places from what I’m being told. He’s only interested in New York or LA. One of the two. New York or LA, and by LA, I mean the Lakers, not the Clippers. That’s what Damian Lillard wants.»

«His preference would be for the Portland Trail Blazers to find somebody, somebody big time to join him and CJ McCollum in Portland. That’s Damian Lillard’s preference. But if they can’t improve the team and if they can’t find anybody, then he’s interested in going one of two places… It’s the Lakers or the Knicks.»

There was no trade. Instead, Lillard signed a supermax contract extension with the Blazers this past summer and has continued to state numerous times that he wants to play his entire career in Rip City. 

Madison Square Garden may be his favorite place to place, but rest assured, when he plays there it will be in a Trail Blazers jersey.

Damian Lillard thought he was going to be traded to the New York Knicks originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest