Joe Cronin to himself during Damian Lillard saga: ‘Eliminate the emotion…don’t settle’

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Earlier this week, the Portland Trail Blazers traded star point guard Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team trade that involved the Phoenix Suns as well.

The Trail Blazers received Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, a first-round pick from Milwaukee in 2029 and pick swaps from the team in 2028 and 2030 for the seven-time All-Star.

A recent article revealed Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin’s message to himself during the Lillard saga.

“Cronin’s peers, who had been in these circumstances, privately told him what he had publicly declared: His obligation was to find the best deal for the Blazers, not for Lillard,” Adrian Wojnarowski wrote. “If those conflicting elements matched up, even better for everyone.

“Through it all, Cronin told himself: Eliminate the emotion, the frustration, the fatigue. And most of all, Cronin implored himself: Don’t settle. Don’t let yourself settle.”

Lillard was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft after spending four seasons playing college basketball at Weber State University. He averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game in 32 games played with the Wildcats during his senior season, the 2011-12 season.

The 6-foot-2 point guard has played 11 seasons in the NBA, all as a member of the Trail Blazers franchise. He averaged 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game across 58 appearances with the Trail Blazers during the 2022-23 regular season.

Those numbers earned Lillard the seventh All-Star nod of his NBA career, along with a spot on the All-NBA Third Team.

Lillard’s contributions during the 2022-23 regular season didn’t translate into a whole lot of collective success for the Trail Blazers, however. They finished the regular season with a subpar 33-49 record — ahead of only the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference standings — and missed out on the postseason.

The 33-year-old point guard enjoyed little postseason success during his time with the Trail Blazers franchise. He reached the Western Conference Finals with the team just once, back in 2019. The Trail Blazers eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets in the first two rounds of the 2019 playoffs.

But Lillard and the Trail Blazers were thoroughly outplayed by Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 Western Conference Finals. The Warriors swept the Blazers, and Lillard converted just 37.1 percent of his field-goal attempts during the series.

Now that the Bucks have acquired Lillard, they are a major threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.