DAMIAN Lillard’s surprise move to the Milwaukee Bucks has stunned some of his new teammates.
A current player who spoke to The US Sun anonymously said the seven-time NBA All-Star’s move from Portland to the Bucks was a “shock” that took a while to process.
It was all the more surprising when the Bucks front office transferred fan favorite Jrue Holiday, who had established himself as a key player for the 2021 champions, to the Boston Celtics.
The 33-year-old Lillard appeared to be on his way to the Miami Heat, who defeated the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs last season.
But the Trailblazers refused to do business with the Heat, so he headed to Milwaukee to form a potentially explosive and enticing blockbuster partnership with star power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“We were really surprised, kind of shocked when we found out that Dame Lillard had been traded and that the team had traded for Jrue,” the player told The US Sun.
“He was a very important player for us and we were really surprised that the front office traded Jrue because he was one of the best players to ever play for the Bucks.”
“We definitely had a few hours where we were in shock.”
Holiday’s loss to Boston was hard to swallow in the locker room – he won the title in his first season and nearly added a second earlier in the year before losing to the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Holiday recently said he wanted to spend his entire career with the Bucks, but the front office had other ideas.
An NBA insider told The US Sun that the decision was a “huge gamble” and that Wisconsin fans would have every right to complain if Lillard doesn’t hit the ground running.
“This could backfire,” he warned.
But Lillard, who averaged 32.2 points per game last season and averaged at least 24 points per game in each of the last eight seasons, is the type of clutch performer who can make a difference for any team.
“We know it’s a business, the NBA is a business, and we will do everything we can to make Dame feel most comfortable on our team,” the player added.
“He’s a fantastic player, he’s from the Western Conference and he’s been the Blazers’ main player for so long.”
“Now he arrives in a different city, in a different context, in a different conference, with a different style of play and on a team where he will not be number one, since Giannis is the main player of the franchise.”
“We will work hard to have the best chemistry and we are ready to make sure Dame Lillard becomes one of our best players, that’s for sure.”
The Bucks have announced the changes since the disappointing postseason loss to Miami earlier this year.
Coach Mike Budenholzer was fired and replaced by Adrian Griffin, who was poached from Toronto.
Key player Antetokounmpo had urged the front office to show they were serious before deciding whether to commit his long-term future to the Bucks.
The Greek Freak’s current contract runs through the end of the 2025 season, with a player option for the following year.
But Lillard’s arrival is certainly a step in the right direction.
“The goal is to get the Bucks back to the top of the NBA and win another title in Milwaukee,” said a Bucks board member, who admitted the decision to let Holiday go was “tough.”
“The feeling when we won the title was unique and great, and the board is obsessed with winning more titles and the players are working hard to bring the trophy back to Wisconsin as well.”
“We are counting on Dame Lillard to help us in this task and be another element of the team that makes us one of the best and most competitive in the NBA.”