In the wake of Thursday’s loss to Denver, which eliminated the Trail Blazers from the postseason, Portland players appeared to sense that major changes could be coming this offseason, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Star point guard Damian Lillard suggested that the team would have to go “back to the drawing board” following its first-round exit.
“We didn’t win a championship, so obviously where we are now isn’t good enough,” Lillard said, noting that the Blazers couldn’t beat a Nuggets team that was missing starters Jamal Murray and Will Barton. “I don’t know what a shakeup looks like, or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as it is wasn’t good enough.”
As Quick writes, the future of head coach Terry Stotts will be one of the first issues the organization has to address. Stotts has one more guaranteed year on his contract, with a team option for 2022/23. However, multiple reports have indicated that Stotts is on the hot seat, and Portland’s showing in the playoffs likely didn’t help his cause.
According to Quick, the Blazers will go through exit interviews with players on Friday before making a call on Stotts, and may wait until next week to make their final decision. For his part, the Blazers’ head coach, who has led the team to eight straight playoff appearances, sounded prepared for any outcome.
“My job security? I’m under contract … I’m sure just like at the end of every year, we are all evaluated,” Stotts said. “The players, coaches, management, we are all evaluated. We will see what happens. At the end of the season, when you lose, everyone is evaluated. When we lost to New Orleans (in 2018), got swept by New Orleans, we were all evaluated. So we will see what happens.”
Here’s more on the Blazers:
- While he has long been committed to Portland, Lillard figures to draw plenty of leaguewide interest from teams curious to see if he’s becoming any more open to a change of scenery, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. So far, there’s no indication that Lillard’s commitment to the franchise is wavering.
- Jusuf Nurkic didn’t sound certain about his future in Portland after Thursday’s loss. The veteran center’s $12MM salary for 2021/22 is only partially guaranteed for $4MM, but a source tells Quick the Blazers plan to guarantee the remainder. Still, Nurkic said he would’ve liked to play a bigger role, and was cryptic when asked if he wanted to return. “In the right situation, yes,” Nurkic replied, per ESPN’s Royce Young. Asked what the right situation was, Nurkic said, “We’ll see. I don’t know yet. Because this is not it.”
- The Blazers face a tricky decision on Norman Powell, who could command up to $20MM per year in free agency, Quick writes for The Athletic. Portland has interest in re-signing Powell, but it may not be practical to invest heavily in another guard if Lillard and CJ McCollum are still on the roster, since the star duo will earn $70MM+ in 2021/22 (and even more than that in future seasons).
- Powell’s future and that of Derrick Jones will likely be tied – at least in part – to whether or not Stotts returns, since his usage of both players was questionable, Quick says. Jones may not be able to match his $9.7MM player option salary on the open market, but it’s unlikely that he’d want to return to play for a coach that didn’t seem to value him, Quick observes.