The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t try to hide they were hunting for an NBA star in the offseason to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis at Staples Center this past summer. Memorably, L.A. was said to have considered a blockbuster move for disenchanted Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.
The rumors started when Lillard and James were seen dapping up at a WNBA game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces in July. Both superstars had just bid goodbye to the 2021 NBA playoffs with disappointing first-round exits.
And, both would soon attend the premiere of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” starring James in the main role and Lillard as a member of the Goon Squad.
Considering the circumstances, the two couldn’t have possibly missed out on a friendly greeting at the Sparks’ game. But the 31-year-old Blazers All-Star has revealed the encounter led to another meeting at James’ mansion in Brentwood, Calif., later that night, via Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes:
The day before Lillard was to shoot his music video, he made a surprise appearance at a WNBA game, featuring the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces. Upon arriving, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was already sitting courtside. On the way to his seat, James stood up to acknowledge his “Space Jam: A New Legacy” cast member. The two shook hands and exchanged a laugh.
Later that evening, James sent Lillard an invitation to his mansion in Brentwood.
“He was like, ‘Pull up. Let’s have lunch to talk shop,’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “So I pulled up.”
The story appears to confirm the reports that James hosted a number of NBA stars at his Brentwood estate over the summer, exploring the possibility of creating a new Big 3 in Los Angeles.
That July night, Davis happened to have joined his Lakers’ partner on the residence’s rooftop, waiting for Lillard to arrive. Then, the three players engaged in a conversation about what the future could hold for them:
“’Bron asked what I was thinking with my situation, and I told him what I’m telling you: that I just want to be in a position to win it all,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “He painted the picture to me that if I were to leave, the situation could look like this. He didn’t tell me to come to L.A., and he didn’t say anything to me that I didn’t already know other than what it could look like. I told him, ‘I know if I were to play with y’all, I know it would work out because of my skill set,’ and who I am and who they are.”
The Lakers were said to have considered different options that would let them land Lillard, but it would soon turn out to be an unachievable goal. The Blazers reportedly never would have agreed to trade Lillard to Los Angeles. And, the six-time All-Star had qualms over playing for a big market team:
“I’m sure it would be great to play with LeBron and AD and play in a big market, but as attractive as it sounded and as fun as that might be, I don’t feel in my heart that that’s who I am or where I belong. And one thing I want to emphasize is that this decision wasn’t made out of comfort. I’m not afraid to be out of my comfort zone because I’m going to live here when I’m done playing regardless. I made my decision based on what I actually want to do.”
Nevertheless, the Lakers managed to form their Big 3, trading for 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. And after a rough start to the 2021-22 season, the three superstars seem to be finally finding a way to co-exist on the floor.
James: Westbrook is a special player
Many doubt whether Westbrook would be a good fit for L.A. However, the 32-year-old guard has shown over the last few games he can complement the other two Lakers All-Stars with his athleticism and playmaking.
James went on to praise Westbrook for his recent progress, calling him “a special player” and “most explosive point guard in NBA history” — which is what the 36-year-old forward thinks L.A. needed.
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