MILWAUKEE -- It's no secret that Damian Lillard wanted to be traded to the Miami Heat. Instead, to the Milwaukee Bucks, and while the two organizations may have offered equal opportunities to win, Milwaukee is, well, not Miami. It has been just as warm outside in recent days, however, and the well-timed early October heat wave has helped convince Lillard that the Midwest might not be so bad.
"Every time I've been to Milwaukee over the course of my career I just stay in my hotel the whole time because it's snowing or something like that," Lillard said. "Seeing the sun out and being by the water and stuff like that, it made me smile a little bit like, man this could be all right."
It was 83 degrees and sunny as Lillard stepped to the podium at media day on Monday, the exact same temperature as Miami. But while the nice weather has been an added bonus, there were far more important factors in Lillard's acceptance of a move to the Bucks, namely the ability to compete for a championship and play with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Lillard said that his agent, Aaron Goodwin, first broached the possibility of a Bucks trade two weeks ago, and he replied he would "definitely" be interested. He didn't believe it would actually happen, however, until Goodwin called him on Sept. 28 and he could hear the seriousness in his voice. Lillard admitted that he started to "panic" a bit once the reality hit him, in part because he couldn't get ahold of any of his family members or friends and just had to sit with the news by himself.
But that time alone allowed him to gather his thoughts.
"I started thinking about the team, like who did I get traded for? Like who's gonna be there," Lillard said. "Then I looked it up and I saw what kind of team I was coming to be a part of. And that's when the excitement kicked in. Just recognizing the opportunity that it is. Knowing how much I want to win and going into every season being optimistic and thinking that we have a chance to get it done, and then coming into this situation and knowing that you got an opportunity to do it. The excitement definitely kicked in when I sat with it for a little bit."
The Bucks have been a title contender for each of the previous five seasons, and won it all in 2021, because of Antetokounmpo. That's who Lillard named in May of 2022 when a fan asked Lillard on Twitter if he could pick one current player to team up with.
Now, it's a reality.
"Playing with somebody like Giannis, the kind of attention he's gonna get is only gonna make the game easier and more simple for me," Lillard said. "I think the way that I impose myself when I play and how I attack games, he's gonna have the kind of opportunity that he hasn't had as well. The best thing I can tell you is how exciting it's gonna be, how excited I am."
The Bucks, who crashed out of the playoffs in the first round last season, have been installed as t. That's a new experience for Lillard, who has never played on a team with genuine championship aspirations.
"I ain't never been in no photo like this, man."