DAMIAN Lillard was once asked to pick a player he’d want as a teammate, and Giannis Antetokounmpo was his answer.
It’s about to happen.
Lillard was traded by Portland to play alongside Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, a deal that ends his 11-year run with the Trail Blazers and a three-month saga surrounding his wish to be moved elsewhere in hopes of winning an NBA title.
The seven-time All-Star — a player so elite that he was selected to the NBA’s 75th anniversary team — goes from the Trail Blazers to the Bucks in a three-team deal that sends Jrue Holiday from the Bucks to Portland, Deandre Ayton from Phoenix to Portland and Jusuf Nurkic from the Blazers to the Suns. The trade was finalized Wednesday night after NBA attorneys, as is always the case with trades, reviewed the terms and approved the deal.
“The casuals won’t be addressed but the trailblazers fans and city of Portland that I love truly will be … and they will be addressed truthfully. Stay tuned,” Lillard wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Excited for my next chapter!”
It became known on July 1 that Lillard asked the Trail Blazers for a trade, which he was long speculated to be considering given his desire to play for a contender and Portland not seeming to have much of a chance with its current roster.
He wanted to go to Miami and made that clear. Portland decided not to accommodate that request, and instead, it’s the Bucks who now have an incredibly strong 1-2 punch of Lillard and Antetokounmpo heading into the new season.
“Damian Lillard is an elite player in our league and someone we’ve long been fans of,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said. “These opportunities are rare and hard to measure and execute.”
Lillard was asked on Twitter in May 2022 to pick one current player he’d want to help him reach the playoffs. He gave a one-word answer: “Giannis.”
Also included in the deal: Nassir Little, Keon Johnson and Grayson Allen are headed to Phoenix, and Toumani Camara goes to Portland. Portland receives a 2029 first-round pick and the right to swap first round picks in 2028 and 2030 from Milwaukee, and trading Ayton means that Devin Booker is now the lone player from the Phoenix team that played Milwaukee in the 2021 NBA Finals still on the Suns’ roster.
The trade continues the Bucks’ dramatic offseason makeover in response to their surprising first-round playoff loss to Miami.
They followed that by firing coach Mike Budenholzer and replacing him with Adrian Griffin, who spent the last five seasons as a Toronto Raptors assistant. Now they’ve traded away the two-time All-Star Holiday to acquire Lillard, a seven-time All-NBA selection.
The acquisition of Lillard comes after Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP, told The New York Times over the summer that he wanted to see how committed the Bucks are toward winning another championship before deciding whether to sign a long-term deal to stay in Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo’s contract runs through the 2024-25 season, with a player option for 2025-26. (AP)