On Monday, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said there have been whispers among league personnel for weeks about Chauncey Billups being the most likely candidate to replace Terry Stotts as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach.
Today, John Hollinger of The Athletic echoed that point, writing that league sources view Billups as the likeliest choice for the Blazers. That belief may be one reason why Jason Kidd removed his name from consideration for the Portland job so quickly, Hollinger speculates.
Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said on Monday that the team will look at upwards of 20-to-25 candidates, so it doesn’t sound like he has zeroed on Billups quite yet. However, it’s worth noting that Billups – along with Kidd – was one of the candidates Damian Lillard endorsed last week. And Olshey confirmed during his press conference on Monday that Lillard will have a say in the hiring process, as Jason Quick of The Athletic details.
“Obviously, Dame’s opinion is very important,” Olshey said. “If you ask him, we have very rarely made a big free-agent decision, very rarely made a trade without his participation and his insight. And it will be the same thing (with this coaching hire).”
According to Olshey, when the team made its decision on Stotts, Lillard was the first player to be informed.
“I called Dame to let him know we were making a coaching change, and I kind of told him the model of what we are looking at in terms of profile and the kind of candidates we would be looking at,” Olshey said, per Quick. “And I said, ‘Hey, if you have a few names, let me know.’ And he gave me a couple names. It’s unfortunate it was made public, because it didn’t actually serve the guys whose names were thrown out there. It certainly didn’t serve them well in the ensuing 48 hours.”
Here’s more on the Blazers:
- Olshey said on Monday that finding a coach capable of improving the Blazers’ defense will be a top priority. As Quick writes, Olshey pointed to certain teams – such as the Knicks and Hawks – that made defensive improvements after changing coaches without major roster shakeups. “Teams that made big jumps on the defensive end were led in part by coaches who players knew on day one they were going to have to defend and be held accountable on that end of the floor because that’s what the coach valued,” Olshey said.
- Although Olshey didn’t close the door on roster changes, he argued on Monday that the Blazers’ first-round loss “was not a product of the roster,” according to Hollinger. He also suggested that the coaching hire is Portland’s top priority since it’s a decision that the team can fully control. “We don’t control whether or not a superstar player wants to come to Portland or not. Or whether we have the pieces to get a deal done for that level of player,” Olshey said, per Quick. “But right now, we do control one element where we think we can find someone who can make more of an impact — with the current group, with improvements coming in the offseason — to get us to the level we expect to be at.”
- Asked on Monday about changes to the roster, Olshey declined to specifically discuss any players, stating his preference not to do in a public forum. “We are going to look to make our team better; nothing is ever off the table if it advances us closer to a championship,” he said, per Quick. “But I’m not going to start bandying names about because people in the media think that there is some predetermined resistance to making a trade.”
- Following Lillard’s public endorsement of Kidd, there was some back-and-forth between Lillard’s camp and the Blazers’ front office, according to Quick, who believes that conversation may have revolved around the team’s concerns about Kidd’s domestic violence history.