NBA trade: Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks trade drama after Jimmy Butler accusation

Damian Lillard is headed to an Eastern Conference contender — just not the one he wanted.

One of the wildest trade dramas in recent years, Lillard on Thursday morning was finally granted his wish to leave Portland as part of a “blockbuster” three team trade, involving Phoenix.

Lillard, a seven-time All-Star and the 2013 Rookie of the Year, confirmed the move on the ‘X’ social media platform.

“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 “Excited for my next chapter! @Bucks,” Lillard wrote.

ESPN and The Athletic first reported the deal had been struck despite Lillard reportedly pushing to be traded to Miami to partner up with Jimmy Butler.

Lillard’s announcement was followed by a nuclear accusation from Butler, who posted a short video on social media calling for the NBA to investigate the Bucks over “tampering” with Lillard’s trade.

“Yo NBA man. Y’all need to look into the Bucks for tampering. Y’all do,” he said.

“I’m just going to put that out there. Y’all didn’t hear it from me.”

Instead of creating a deadly scoring duo with Butler, Lillard is now creating a powerhouse partnership with two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The terms of the three-team trade are as big as it gets.

In return for letting Lillard leave the Blazers are receiving Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected first-round pick from the Bucks and the right to swap picks in 2028 and 2030.

The Suns are receiving Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson.

As with all trades, it cannot be finalised until NBA attorneys review the terms and approve the deal.

The blockbuster trade comes after months of rumours that Lilllard would only play for the Heat, The New York Post reports.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Sport Centre Lillard’s wish was never seriously entertained because the Heat was unable to make an offer that enticed the Blazers.

Wojnarowski described the three-team trade as a “blockbuster”.

Other commentators suggested it was Milwaukee that clearly won the trade.

Milwaukee may have felt pressure to make this blockbuster deal in an attempt to appease Antetokounmpo, who hinted he’s unsure of his future with the Bucks.

Antetokounmpo has two more years and a player option left on his current contract and is eligible for a three-year extension worth $173 million.

In August, the Greek superstar told The New York Times he will not be looking to sign a new contract this season — and emphasised the importance of sacrifice from the organisation.

He followed that up earlier this month by questioning the team’s commitment to contending for an NBA title while on the “48 Minutes” Bleav podcast.

“As long as we play and we approach the game every single day the right way and we all sacrifice for a common goal, I can see myself being with the Milwaukee Bucks for the rest of my career,” the 28-year-old Antetokounmpo said.

“But the moment I feel like people are not committed as I am to get that golden thing in the back … I am a Milwaukee Buck, but most importantly, I am a winner. I want to win.

“I have to do whatever it takes for me to win, and if there is a better situation for me to win the Larry O’Brien [championship trophy] I have to take that better situation.”

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to an NBA title in 2021, but Milwaukee lost to the Celtics in the East Finals the following year and were bounced from the playoffs last season with a first-round loss to the Heat.

Milwaukee fired head coach Mike Budenholzer after the team’s early postseason exit and replaced him with Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin.

Lillard, 33, gives Griffin a dynamic scorer and playmaker who averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game last season and has averaged at least 24 points per game in each of the last eight seasons.

His career average of 25.2 points per game ranks 11th among all players in NBA history who have appeared in at least 500 games.

A seven-time All-Star in 11 NBA seasons, Lillard was a first-round pick by Portland in the 2012 NBA Draft, going No. 6 overall.

But after the Trail Blazers used the No. 3 pick overall in the 2023 NBA Draft on point guard Scoot Henderson, Lillard read the writing on the wall and asked for his ticket out of town.

Lillard will make almost $46 million this coming season and could make as much as $216 million over the next four years if he exercises his option for the 2026-27 season.

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