In a fascinating piece released mere minutes before former president and general manager Neil Olshey was fired by the Trail Blazers, Jason Quick of The Athletic details how he views head coach Chauncey Billups as a poor schematic fit with Portland’s flawed roster — constructed by Olshey.
Even before star Damian Lillard was announced as being injured, it was clear that Portland was not functioning as a cohesive unit. Quite the opposite, in fact. Quick writes that the team had grown accustomed to ex-coach Terry Stotts‘ freedom on both ends of the court, and Billups wants to instill more structure and accountability, with a more aggressive defense and more ball movement on offense.
However, Billups’ stern exchanges have seemingly demoralized the group, and Quick asked Billups how he thought it was going over with the players.
“I think pretty good, but at the end of the day, it’s not easy,” Billups said. “It’s not easy all the time to hear when you are not doing what you are supposed to do, especially from the coach. All I care about is I believe we should play one way. I know what wins, I know what’s important. When we don’t do it, obviously I’m going to always bring it to the table, to those players, to those people. And I know it’s not always going to be well received.
“But I know it’s the best thing for the team, it’s the best thing for the player and at the end of the day, if you are mad or upset, if you actually really want to win and be a good teammate, you go home and think about that, look yourself in the mirror, and you are going to realize what I was saying was right, you know? With no agenda at all other than for us to try and get better. So, I can ride with that. That’s just kind of who I was as a player, who I am as a person, and I will be consistent there.”
Quick believes that while it is a talented group of players, the roster that Olshey built doesn’t make sense under Billups. He mentions the fact that the Blazers have three 6’3″ guards (Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norman Powell) all starting, which leads to them being exploited defensively. Quick also says that Olshey’s infatuation with McCollum and refusal to trade him hurt the team. He thinks a roster shakeup is absolutely necessary in order to break the team out of its early season funk. The Blazers are currently 11-12.
It’s a great article from Quick and worth reading in full for subscribers of The Athletic.
Here’s more from Portland:
- ESPN’s Bobby Marks thinks the Blazers should explore trading Lillard (video link). He believes Lillard may have peaked as a player, pointing to his age (31), huge contract, and the high number of minutes he’s played over the years. Marks thinks it could be worth it to try and extract maximum value for Lillard before it’s too late. However, he acknowledges that the situation will be very tricky for whomever takes over the front office, as Lillard is one of the best players in franchise history.
- John Canzano of The Oregonian is happy the Blazers pulled the plug on the Olshey, and believes that it will galvanize the organization and fan base.
- Bulls general manager Marc Eversley and Knicks general manager Scott Perry are both candidates to replace Olshey as GM, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
- A source tells Quick of The Athletic that Grizzlies VP of basketball affairs Tayshaun Prince, who had previously been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Olshey, is not in the running for the role (Twitter link).