It has been a little over 48 hours since the doors opened for NBA Free Agency this year. Phones are ringing and hands are shaking as narratives continue to unfold around the league. Meanwhile, a devoted fanbase resides on Twitter with Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania as their patron saints.
Some questions were answered right away. However, others still await a verdict. Let’s discuss some important and eye-catching talking points from the first two days of this beautiful madness.
No hard feelings
It is safe to say we have seen the last of Damian Lillard in Portland. On Saturday, reports stated that after 11 years of service, Lillard has opted to take his talents elsewhere.
A bittersweet moment for NBA fans, to say the least, as Lillard and Portland are all we knew. On the bright side, there’s no denying how much better his chances are if traded to the right team. Lillard carried the weight of Oregon on his shoulders for over a decade to no avail. And if the Trailblazers could not surround him with the right pieces to succeed, he’s better off joining a well-oiled machine in a different setting.
Many of us expected a Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan story from Lillard–an incredibly talented player sticking to one team for his entire career. The difference is that Kobe and Duncan were winning, and therefore had no reason to leave. Lillard’s trade request caused some fans to be upset. This outcry is understandable, especially if you’re from Portland and feel betrayed.
Lillard took to Twitter and welcomed fans to speak their minds about his decision.
There are a few viable landing spots for the seven-time All-Star. However, the Miami Heat appear to be the front runners. And speaking of the Miami Heat…
End of the culture?
“Heat Culture” was more than a mantra. It was the identity of the Heat as a team that echoed from their fanbase. It was often cited last season, especially during their unexpected run from a Play-In team to the NBA Finals. It was the grit, the resilience, and the underdog mentality that made them such an incredible team to watch.
Part of what made their story incredible was the undrafted players who became heroes throughout the playoffs. As great as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were, the job could not have been completed without Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Duncan Robinson. Unfortunately, the flowers bloomed and have been picked out from their source.
The Heat have dealt Strus to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Vincent to the Los Angeles Lakers. Should Miami go all-in for the Lillard sweepstakes as expected, do not be surprised if Robinson, Martin, or both, get packaged and shipped out to complete the transaction.
Like Lillard’s time in Portland, it was mostly fun while it lasted, but it has to end for the better good.
The price is not right
Is Russell Westbrook damaged goods? I don’t think so. He’s more like an old cell phone model. One that’s features were great years ago but no longer functions well for today’s needs. You know it lags and fails to work at times, but it can still be functional.
The former MVP and triple-double machine has agreed to stay with the LA Clippers, but his price tag is a significantly low $7.8 million for two years.
After bouncing from Washington to Los Angeles with the Lakers, Westbrook remained in the City of Angels after being cast as the starting point guard for the Clippers. He was not perfect for the role, but good enough, considering what the Clippers needed. Ty Lou was not afraid to bench him when he got carried away which often led to his team’s demise. And Westbrook understood that this was no longer Oklahoma City where he was the main attraction.
Still, under $8 million is low for the nine-time All-Star, especially after proving that he can still be productive (or less reactive) under the right guidance. Meanwhile, Dillon Brooks, who the Grizzlies refused to bring back for his disruptive behavior agreed to a four-year $80 million deal with the Houston Rockets.
Westbrook’s new deal includes a player option after the 2023-2024 season. But God only knows how long his lease is in LA as the Clippers continuously reconfigure a failing formula.