Reports: Heat, Celtics, Clippers phone Portland in Damian Lillard bidding

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Damian Lillard wants out of Portland, but the Trail Blazers plan to take their time fielding calls to guarantee maximum return for the franchise centerpiece.

The Miami Heat are Lillard’s preferred next team according to multiple reports, but there is a queue forming that includes multiple contenders.

Reports on Monday said the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers checked in with the Blazers to gauge the asking price for Lillard.

Lillard has spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Blazers to date and took a position of “anti-super team” in the past. A deal to Miami would pair Lillard with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

The Celtics, Clippers and 76ers are also built around All-Star pillars. The New Orleans Pelicans, who denied offering Zion Williamson to Portland in pre-draft trade talks, and Brooklyn Nets were also connected to Lillard in previous reports.

The seven-time All-Star guard took exception to social media critics, some of whom announced fans are “turning on” Lillard.

“It’s in my blood to take the high road. I’d love to hear what fans are turning on… have I mislead them? Or anyone? Fill me in,” Lillard wrote via Twitter.

Lillard reportedly met with Portland team officials earlier to discuss the franchise’s direction after the 2023 draft. He is said to be unhappy with Portland’s decision to use the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s draft on point guard Scoot Henderson instead of trading it to acquire a high-level co-star such as Williamson.

Henderson, who played for G League Ignite, would be a building block along with second-year shooting guard Shaedon Sharpe in a post-Lillard era.

Lillard, who turns 33 on July 15, was drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in 2012.

He averaged a franchise-record 32.2 points per game in 2022-23, the third-highest clip in the league, but Portland finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

Lillard is scheduled to earn $45.6 million for the 2023-24 season. He signed a four-year, $176.3 million deal in July 2022.

Named one of the NBA’s 75 greatest players of all time in 2021, Lillard won Rookie of the Year honors in 2012-13 and has made All-NBA teams seven times. He is Portland’s career leader in points (19,376) and 3-point field goals (2,387).

Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said Saturday that Portland plans to do what’s best for the team in working through a separation with Lillard.

“We have been clear that we want Dame here but he notified us today he wants out and he’d prefer to play someplace else,” Cronin said. “What has not changed for us is that we’re committed to winning, and we are going to do what’s best for the team in pursuit of that goal.”