It is no secret that the Miami Heat have been a team in the national spotlight due to Damian Lillard’s groundbreaking trade request. As it stands, no significant progress has been made in a Lillard trade, as the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reiterated that Portland continues to show no interest in trading Lillard to Miami.
Even though the most recent news is discouraging when it comes to Lillard ending up in Miami, the NBA seems to be operating under the assumption that a Lillard to Miami trade will be completed at some point.
With the 2023-2024 schedule officially released, the Heat have a total of 16 nationally televised games, with four coming after the trade deadline in February. That will be the most Miami will have in a particular month. What’s interesting about the NBA choosing to have their major networks cover Miami during that period is not only that the trade deadline takes place in February, but the opponents that Miami is facing while being in pursuit for Lillard is eye-opening.
The nationally televised games for Miami in the month of February are:
- Feb. 11 vs Boston on ABC
- Feb. 22 at New Orleans on ESPN
- Feb. 27 at Portland on TNT
- Feb. 29 at Denver on TNT
In a scenario where Lillard is traded to Miami, a majority of these matchups will have a storyline tied in with Lillard.
Against the Pelicans, if traded to Miami, Lillard would be facing off against his former Blazer teammate CJ McCollum, who played with Lillard for eight and a half seasons before being traded to New Orleans in 2022. Adding Lillard to Miami would make a marquee matchup even bigger with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler already in the mix.
The next game that follows is against the Trail Blazers, where Lillard would make his return to Portland. Stars facing their former teams for the first time always garners attention (how will he interact with his former teammates, will fans cheer or boo, etc.). This game would also add to the list of notable players that are set to face their old teams on national TV, such as Chris Paul vs Phoenix along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving vs Brooklyn.
And while a Miami and Denver matchup would also be the first time both teams face off since the Finals, the Nuggets were also the team that eliminated Lillard in his last playoff appearance in 2021. In an interview on Showtime’s The Last Stand, Lillard voiced his disappointment after Portland’s first round exit.
“I was really frustrated after that,” Lillard told The Last Stand’s host, Brian Custer. “That was probably the most frustrated I had been in my career.”
Teams are usually motivated to face off against the team they lost against in the Finals, as most Heat fans remember the Christmas Day season opener in 2011 against Dallas in which Miami dominated. Potentially including Lillard can add even more fire to this highly-anticipated Finals rematch.
With this schedule, the NBA has positioned itself to capitalize on a Lillard trade. If a trade takes place, there will be extra storylines and excitement to each of Miami’s nationally televised games which can generate more viewers.
On the other side, if Lillard is still on the Blazers after the trade deadline, there can be added coverage on certain topics such as why a deal did not materialize, what this means for both teams going forward, and if the Heat needed to make a deal happen to boost their title chances.
But with the league choosing for Miami to be in the public eye against those specific opponents in that timeframe, it appears the NBA believes, at some point, Damian Lillard will be a member of the Miami Heat.