Is there substance behind the ongoing smoke surrounding a potential Lillard trade?

Signs are growing that talks have picked up serious momentum in the last 72 hours toward a Damian Lillard trade to the Miami Heat, with rumors of third teams possibly involved flying all over the place. However, the most concrete sign of real movement may have come from the Instagram story of Heat wing Tyler Herro, whose name has long been in the middle of the trade talks as the guy headed out of South Beach.

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There also is the news from long-time Suns beat reporter Gerald Bourguet of PHNX that — again — talks have intensified and Phoenix has emerged as a dark horse candidate to be the third team in getting a trade done.

While the Suns lack the assets and/or contracts to trade for Lillard or Harden themselves, one source referred to the Suns as a “mystery team” in regards to their potential involvement. Another called them a “dark horse” to help facilitate a deal as an additional party.

Finally comes word from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that the Trail Blazers want to get this trade done before the start of training camp. Of course they do. That’s not a secret. However, even he admits Portland will only do this if they get a trade offer that works for them.

Which leads to the real question: What has changed on the ground to get a deal done?

What has held this trade back from happening is Portland wanting more from Miami and not loving the Heat’s core offer (which likely is two first-round picks plus a package of players based around Herro). Portland has worked hard to find a broader market for the All-NBA guard, to get other teams in the Lillard sweepstakes, but the fact he is age 33 with four years and $216.7 million left on his contract has limited the market (the word Lillard only wants to go to Miami and his trade request will stand if sent somewhere else helps). This is a negotiation, with both sides pushing to get the best deal, and while talks have appeared to finally get serious we don’t know what has changed in a real sense for this to finally happen.

All the smoke around the deal has ramped up talk of the trade on social media, which is why it feels like time to send messages to the die-hard fans of the Trail Blazers and Heat.

Portland fans: The Miami offer is not s***. It may not be what you hoped, but it’s not terrible. Two first-round picks and a recent Sixth Man of the Year is a good offer — maybe not what you expected, but this is not the Durant/Mitchell/Gobert deals, the player and the situation are different. Push Miami to change the protections on a pick owed OKC to make it three first-round picks, find a third team because you don’t think Herro is a fit next to your guy Anfernee Simons, but don’t say this is a bad offer. It’s also the best real thing available.

Miami fans: The Trail Blazers do not “owe” Lillard anything. Not to go Jon Hamm meme, but that’s what the money is for. The writing was on the wall about this team as a serious playoff threat and Lillard grabbed the bag and signed a two-year, $121.8 million extension beyond the two years he already had. Good for him, this is a business and nobody should begrudge a player making as much money as they can. However, he was not duped. This was not the Blazers saying, “good, he signed, let us pivot to a rebuild.” The Blazers tried to upgrade the roster, bringing in Jeremi Grant among others, but there was always a ceiling and decisions were made in the franchise’s best interest (such as drafting Scoot Henderson). Lillard made his choice. While he is free to ask for a trade, nothing is owed.

All that said, it does feel more and more like a trade will get done before training camps open on Oct. 3, but exactly what that will look like remains to be seen. All the talk may not change the dynamics at the heart of these negotiations. The odds of Lillard being at Trail Blazers media day are not zero. Still, it feels like he will be a lot closer to South Beach by then.

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