Blazers’ Billups Has Support Of Front Office, Players

Unless they turn things around quickly and drastically, the Trail Blazers will miss the playoffs and the play-in tournament for a second consecutive year since hiring Chauncey Billups as their head coach. However, a high-ranking source within the organization tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that the idea of firing Billups “hasn’t even crossed our minds.”

Billups has also received endorsements from several of Portland’s most important players, including Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Jerami Grant, according to Quick. Grant, who is eligible for free agency this summer, said that outsiders calling for Billups to be let go are “stupid,” adding that he’s “ready to run through a wall” for his coach.

For his part, Billups told Quick that he’s in frequent contact with Blazers general manager Joe Cronin and isn’t afraid of losing his job.

“I don’t worry about that, at all,” Billups said. “We have our talks and everything, and that will remain between us, but I don’t worry about that at all.”

Billups, who is in the second year of a five-year contract, has led the Blazers to a 58-94 (.382) record since taking the reins from Terry Stotts in 2021. Portland had hoped the first-time head coach could help stabilize a defense that had been one of the NBA’s worst during Stotts’ last two seasons, but there has been no improvement in that area — the Blazers ranked 29th in defensive rating in 2021/22 and currently sit at 27th in ’22/23.

Still, as Quick points out, Billups hasn’t been dealt an easy hand in Portland. The team underwent a front office overhaul just a few months after he was hired and saw its franchise player (Lillard) limited to just 29 games last season due to a major abdominal injury. Several key players, including CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and Larry Nance Jr., were traded at the 2022 deadline, and others – Josh Hart and Gary Payton II – were on the move at this season’s deadline.

“It’s been unbelievable … crazy,” Billups said of the Blazers’ front office turmoil, injury woes, and roster turnover. “How is that my fault? Last year I had so many coaches who are either in the league or past coaches saying, ‘Bro, I’ve coached 15, 17 years and I didn’t go through that once.’

“… The sad part about this season is we never got to see our team play. We had Josh, GP, Justise (Winslow) … veterans we know who were really going to help you win. And early in the season, we had a lot of those guys playing, and we were kicking up some dust, playing well. But an injury here … and all the stuff that happened (trades of Hart and Payton) … it was just tough.”

Acknowledging that his win-loss record hasn’t been strong so far, Billups said that his performance should also be evaluated based on the culture he has cultivated in Portland, the buy-in he has gotten from his players, and the progress he has made in developing the Blazers’ youngsters, including Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, and Nassir Little. According to Quick, Billups rated himself “good” on the first point and “very good” on the other two.

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