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This is an article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM Newsletter, the ultimate guide to every day in sports. You can sign up to get it in your inbox every weekday morning here.

🦌 Good morning to everyone but especially ...


Adjust your clocks accordingly, Milwaukee: It's Dame Time. The Bucks pulled off a stunner, acquiring Damian Lillard from the Trail Blazers in a three-team blockbuster trade.

  • Bucks receive: Damian Lillard
  • Trail Blazers receive: Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, Bucks' 2029 first-round pick (unprotected), swap rights on Bucks' 2028, 2030 picks
  • Suns receive: Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, Keon Johnson

My goodness, that's a lot of moving parts ... none, of course, as big as Lillard. It was just days ago that Lillard was dead-set on going to the Heat while Giannis Antetokounmpo was saying he'd be open to leaving Milwaukee for a better shot at titles. Now, the Bucks have a title-caliber one-two punch -- one that immediately vaulted them to the top as NBA championship favorites.

  • Lillard, 33, is coming off career-highs in points per game (32.2) and true shooting percentage (64.5%), which adjusts for 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws.
  • The only other player to hit those numbers in NBA history is Joel Embiid in his MVP campaign last year.
  • Lillard is a seven-time All Star and seven-time All-NBA performer, including last year despite playing in just 58 games. Portland shut him down in late March when a playoff berth became a long shot.

My first thoughts on this deal? I love it for Milwaukee. Two notes from our excellent research team:

  • Antetokounmpo and Lillard will be the first pair of teammates in NBA history who both averaged 30+ points and 5+ assists the previous season.
  • Lillard has the most makes 30+ feet from the basket since entering the league. Antetokounmpo has the most makes from within 5 feet since entering the league.

Last year, Milwaukee was a wrecking ball on defense but comparatively a wreck on offense. The Bucks averaged 22 points in the fourth quarter of their first-round disaster against the Heat. Lillard is a proven stone-cold killer in clutch time who can single-handedly carry a team. As such...

There's an old saying that good offense beats good defense. Milwaukee found that out the hard way in the postseason. Lillard is a downgrade defensively from Holiday, but he's a massive, massive upgrade offensively, and Milwaukee has the defenders around Lillard -- Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez at the rim plus a plethora of solid perimeter options -- to hold up on that end.

Of course, there were two other teams in this trade. While it's hard for Portland to say goodbye to its beloved star, it added an intriguing big in Ayton, who is only 25 and getting a fresh start. The potentially valuable 2029 unprotected first-round pick and two pick swaps can be used to build around, ideally, Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and perhaps others. They'll also add whatever they get in a Holiday deal; Portland is already shopping him, and there are plenty of suitors.

For Phoenix, the tumultuous Ayton tenure is over with much-needed depth on the way, Colin writes. Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal form an outstanding top three, but as the Suns found out last year, it takes five -- plus a deep bench -- to win.

As such, Bill Reiter opines that this trade is a win-win-win. And it's a win for us fans, too: The NBA season just got a lot more fun.

👍 Honorable mentions

🔥 And not such a good morning for ...



When you center your offseason around one big swing ... and you miss ... it's a brutal miss. Now that Lillard is off the board, let's look at Miami's offseason:

  • Two of their already old core holdovers -- Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry -- got older.
  • They spent months trying to trade their best and most promising youngsters -- Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez -- for Lillard ... only to get rebuffed.
  • They lost key contributors Max Strus (Cavaliers) and Gabe Vincent (Lakers).
  • Because they were planning around Lillard, their biggest veteran addition was Josh Richardson, a solid player but one who has switched teams seven times since 2019.

That's why Butler jokingly (or maybe not?) asked the league to investigate the Bucks for tampering, why the Heat are a clear loser by missing out on this deal and why they're in this section of the newsletter.

Simply put, the Heat didn't have the assets for this deal but somehow thought Portland would acquiesce or Lillard would force his way there. But here's the thing: When it came to this trade, as Brad Botkin wrote last week, the Blazers didn't owe Lillard anything. Sure, they owe him gratitude for 11 seasons of excellence and loyalty. Lillard even released a "Farewell" song. But Portland didn't need to bend to Lillard's "demands," and ultimately, it didn't. Give credit to general manager Joe Cronin, Brad says.

Now, the Heat are scrambling, but not all is lost. Miami is among several top landing spots for Holiday. Brad says he would be a great consolation prize,

  • Botkin: "They need a point guard. They would be a defensive juggernaut with Holiday, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. And they wouldn't have to give up nearly what they were in line to trade for Lillard. ... If it doesn't [happen], it's back to proving everyone who thinks they're a potential play-in team wrong."

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏌 Ryder Cup expert picks, details on big U.S. changes

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Set a ridiculously early alarm, get a mid-afternoon nap and/or stock up on caffeine and pull an all-nighter. No matter your strategy, the Ryder Cup is here to make it worth your while. The action at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome begins at 1:35 a.m. ET on Friday, and here's how to watch the drama unfold.

If you've missed any of our preview content, I suggest you go back to the past few newsletters because the work Kyle Porter and Patrick McDonald have produced is terrific. Now, it's time for them to make their picks. Here's Patrick's:

  • McDonald: "United States (15-13): A 30-year streak should have no effect on this team. They bring the more talented side, the more seasoned partnerships in both formats and much more depth. Plenty has been made of the top three Europeans (Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm), but it will be the top three Americans (Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele) who win the game within the game and block Europe's path to victory."

Another reason the U.S. hopes it can end its Ryder Cup drought in Europe? Two major changes that Kyle details:

  • Porter: "The most tangible and important (but less fun) difference is that the U.S. has gone deep on analytics, so much so that it has evened the advantage Europe has long enjoyed. ... The more interesting switch is less mathematical and far more human: These 12 Americans like each other and get along better than past teams. ... Brooks Koepka and Max Homa spoke to it. If there's a one-word summation of the entire ethos necessary to go win a team event like the Ryder Cup, it's 'trust.'"

Wyndham Clark even created some headlines -- and maybe some bulletin-board material for Rory McIlroy and Team Europe -- with his self-trust.

It's going to be a magnificent next three days of golf. I can't wait, and I almost certainly won't sleep.

📺 What we're watching Thursday (and early Friday)

🏈 Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏈 Lions at Packers, 8:15 p.m. on Amazon Prime
Ryder Cup, 1:35 a.m. Friday on USA Network