With Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks Return To Goliath Status
It seems that a brief era of tumult has ended for the Milwaukee Bucks. In a three-way trade with the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns finalized Wednesday, Milwaukee received star point guard Damian Lillard in exchange for Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, a 2029 first-round pick and two first-round pick swaps.
At the end of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Bucks faced a series of challenges that seemed certain to end their attempt at a dynasty prematurely. They were a no-show as the first seed in the Eastern Conference, going quietly in five games against the eighth-seeded Miami Heat. Star Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered an injury in that series and failed to deliver upon returning. Longtime Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton entered free agency early in the summer and seemed to be on his way out of the organization.
For a moment, the 2021 champs seemed to be fading away. Now, they’re championship favorites once more, as Lillard will join Antetokounmpo and Middleton, re-signed in July, to form one of the most formidable big threes in recent NBA history.
Though it has long been rumored that Lillard would be leaving Portland before the start of the 2023-24 season, he still took to Twitter Wednesday night to speak to Portland fans and express optimism for his future.
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“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,” Lillard said. “Stay tuned. Excited for my next chapter!”
In a joint statement, Bucks president Peter Feigin and general manager Jon Horst said that the team had no choice but to go for Lillard, a seven-time All-Star who scored 32.2 points per game last season.
“Today is an exciting day for Milwaukee,” Feigin and Horst said. “When you have the rare opportunity to pair one of the premier NBA players with a highly versatile roster that has lofty goals, you go for it. And we’re thrilled to welcome seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard to the Bucks.”
Despite disappointing in the playoffs last year, the Bucks still amassed a 58-24 record, the best in the league. Antetokoumpo remains a generational talent and will keep Middleton, his right-hand man, and gain Lillard, who has not had an All-Star teammate since 2015.
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