Portland Trail Blazers prepare to host OKC's big three for first time
From NBA media reports
* Tonight on NBA League Pass: Thunder vs. Blazers (9 ET)
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum didn’t hide their ambition in trying to lure Carmelo Anthony to Portland to join them in red and black. The Trail Blazers’ star backcourt was proactive during the offseason recruiting process, lobbying hard for a superstar (or two) to relocate to the Pacific Northwest. They went after Anthony and the franchise also worked behind the scenes to see if it could land Paul George in a potential deal with Indiana.
Their efforts were fruitless, of course, as both Anthony and George wound up in Oklahoma City alongside reigning Kia MVP Russell Westbrook on a new-look Thunder team that could upset the order of things in the Western Conference playoff chase. That history is what makes tonight’s Thunder visit to the Moda Center, the first since all of the relocations, more intriguing for all involved. Mike Richman of the Oregonian sets the table:
Lillard reached out to Anthony early in the summer, selling him on waiving his no-trade clause and excepting a deal that would send him to the Blazers. McCollum ran into Anthony while working out in the summer in New York City and made a straight forward pitch.
“I was in New York all summer and I talked to [Anthony] about it one time,” McCollum said on Saturday, following Blazers practice. “I told him about our team and how he could help and that was the end of it. We worked out and never mentioned it again. So it wasn’t like we were in pursuit of him like people made it out to be. I’m happy for him. I wish him nothing but success.”
Beyond the private conversations, Lillard and McCollum made a few very public pleas for Anthony to join them in Portland. They both discussed the possibility with reporters at Lillard’s youth camp in July and McCollum posted a photoshopped image on his Instagram feed of Anthony wearing a Blazers uniform.
Anthony eventually waived his no trade clause opening the door for New York Knicks to send their disgruntled star to Oklahoma City, officially ending Portland’s pursuit of two All-Star forwards. Instead of the Blazers retooling, a division rival had loaded up. But when Lillard saw the news that Anthony had been traded he says he wasn’t discouraged or shocked.
“You knew he was going to get moved somewhere you just didn’t know where,” Lillard said. “We were one of the options and it didn’t work out. I didn’t have much reaction to it. It was just like, ‘Okay, that’s where he ended up.'”