Chauncey Billups‘ first season as an NBA head coach hasn’t been anything like he anticipated, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Portland is reeling with a 16-25 record amid a series of injuries and players in the health and safety protocols that has left Billups with a constantly changing lineup.
Six rotation players were missing from Thursday’s loss at Denver, although the situation should begin to improve with the expected return of CJ McCollum on Monday. The Blazers also had to deal with 0ffcourt turmoil as Chris McGown resigned as president and CEO and Neil Olshey was fired as president of basketball operations following an investigation into workplace conditions.
“This year has been unbelievable,” Billups said before Thursday’s game. “We’re 40 games in and we’ve been really in flux a lot, from internally to the team to the COVID to the injured. I mean, it’s just been crazy. So, it’s making me a better coach. I don’t know who I’m going to have every game I come out and play. So, I got to kind of rearrange things. It really is making me a ton better.”
There’s more from Portland:
- Damian Lillard put off surgery for as long as he could, but it became too difficult to keep playing through the pain caused by abdominal tendinopathy, per Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Lillard rested for a month after the Olympics with the hope that it would help his condition, but he said the discomfort returned early in training camp. He underwent surgery this week and will be re-evaluated in five to six weeks. “I know (surgery) is ultimately going to be what’s best for the team, too,” Lillard said. “I’d rather be selfish for the team, what I see for our organization and where I want it to go. It makes no sense to keep doing it the way we was doing it. It’s like, all right, take a step back to take how many steps forward. It’s just what had to happen.”
- While he’s out of action, Lillard is working with the team’s younger players, including Anfernee Simons, who has excelled since taking over Lillard’s starting spot, Holdahl adds. “Ant is like my protege, he’s been under my wing,” Lillard said. “We train together in the summer, I’m always talking to him, I’m always in his ear, we’re always texting and stuff like that because I’ve always believed in him to the highest power.”
- Norman Powell has formed a similar relationship with CJ Elleby, notes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Elleby has used what he learned from Powell to become a reliable rotation player while the Blazers are short-handed.