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Damian Lillard: ‘I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to play with’ LeBron James

No, Lillard didn’t weigh in directly on the Kyrie Irving trade rumors, but he did make some clear points.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

When it was reported last week that Kyrie Irving had requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the reasons given for Irving’s request was a desire to be the leading star on his own team. It was one of several reasons given by various reporters, and it has left us reading between the lines to try to understand what exactly Irving’s motivations are. We may never know for sure, at least not in the near future.

If starring on a team as the lead guard and scorer was Irving’s goal, though, then he may be in for a rude awakening. Damian Lillard, one player who fits Irving’s example of a star point guard, certainly doesn’t seem to agree with Irving’s decision. He didn’t explicitly say it in an interview on Sports Illustrated Now, but this exchange is telling. Here’s the video, with a transcription below.

QUESTION: After Kyrie Irving reportedly asked for a trade, really you and John Wall were the examples that Kyrie reportedly told the front office that he would like to be, that he would like to have a situation like yours. I’m just curious from your point of view, Dame, is your situation better from what Kyrie has in Cleveland? You know what it’s like to be the face of a team. Is that a better situation?

LILLARD: I mean, it’s a lot of hard work, but I’m not even sure that’s true, but who wouldn’t want to go to the Finals every year. I think they’ve been to the Finals the last three years, so I would love to do that.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a question this way: If LeBron was on your team, would you ever ask for a trade?

LILLARD: (laughs) I don’t know, since I’ve never played with LeBron. Just watching from the outside, you see how easy he makes it for everyone else. I’m not sure what it’s like playing with LeBron the person, but the player, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to play with him.

Lillard treads the line on this question, and deservedly so. It’s smart PR coaching. It still didn’t stop one part of his quote being taken out of context, something he complained about on Twitter on Monday afternoon. Here’s his quote tweet ...

... of this tweet directed at him right here.

While Lillard may have a point with that specific snippet, his overall points seem clear: He would love to go to the finals repeatedly, and he would love to play with a player as good as James. While he doesn’t say anything about Irving’s decision specifically, it’s a logical step to say that he wouldn’t think of requesting a trade if he were in Irving’s situation.

On the other hand, Irving has been there and done that. Perhaps it’s a the-grass-is-greener situation, with Irving having a championship and the iconic shot that won it. Now it’s time to build his own brand, starring on a team where he doesn’t fall in James’ shadow and where his Nike shoe line might grow even more popular. That’s the counter argument for Irving’s motivations, at least, and it would put him in a situation like Lillard’s.

Irving and Lillard are different people who might have dramatically different motivations. But Irving should know that Lillard would probably trade places with him in a heartbeat, and that should at least give Irving second thoughts.