Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups Discusses Challenges Created By Damian Lillard’s Trade Demand

Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups talked extensively about Damian Lillard‘s trade request and how it has affected the team in an interview with Steve Aschburner of

No significant progress has been made on a Lillard deal since he asked Portland’s front office to move him in early July. He hasn’t relented on his desire to leave, which means Billups can’t be certain what his roster will ultimately look like with training camp less than two weeks away.

“Obviously it’s unsettling, it’s difficult,” Billups said. “But for me, all I can do, I’m responsible for giving my best to who we have. I don’t know how it’s going to play out. There’s nothing I can do to control it. But I do know who we have on our team right now and who I’ve been working with this summer. Who I’m excited about. All I can really do is pour myself into our guys. And see what happens whenever that happens. I’m excited about Shaedon (Sharpe’s) progress. And coaching Scoot (Henderson) and Ant (Anfernee Simons).

“Figuring out what happens with Dame? Everybody knows how I feel about Dame and my opportunity to coach him. We’ll just see. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ll be ready to do the best I can.”

Unlike other stars who have asked to be traded, the demand hasn’t affected Lillard’s popularity, as the Portland fan base recognizes the loyalty he has shown to the franchise over the past 11 years. Billups doesn’t believe Lillard wants to do anything to hurt the organization, adding that Blazers fans will continue to cheer for him wherever he goes.

“Dame is one of the most stable human beings I’ve ever been around,” Billups added. “He’s not about any type of drama. So this whole process probably weighs very heavy on him. It’s just not who he is. But he’s at a crossroads in his career, and he’s doing what he feels is best for him and his family. I’m always going to be supportive of that.”

Billups touches on several other subjects during the interview, including:

Expectations for Henderson, who is among the favorites to win Rookie of the Year:

“Scoot is going to be a star in this league. He plays both sides of the floor with ferocity. He is very, very driven. He’s a play-maker, he’s a real point guard. Got some leadership about him. He looks like he’s the starting safety of the Denver Broncos. He’s going to be an exciting player for the whole world to watch but our fan base, they can rest assured they’ll be entertained.”

Reasons for optimism about Sharpe after a promising rookie season:

“The steps he made last year. If you watched him at the end, he was lights out. I think he’s worked very hard since then to get better. It was a small sample size, but he was playing against a lot of those teams’ No. 1 defensive player. He was getting some tough coverages and he still was getting things done. I was very impressed with him.”

Jerami Grant‘s role after getting a new five-year, $160MM contract:

“I think Jerami fits in perfectly to what we’re doing. He’s a guy who loves to play the game. Unselfish, both offensively and defensively. Plays fast. Wants to play the right way. He’s going to be perfect for our young guys. He’s excited as well to be back.”

Heat Notes: Swider, Richardson, Butler, Lowry

Cole Swider is hoping to be the Heat‘s next success story in player development, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Miami has shown a knack for finding useful players who have gone undrafted, many of whom are coming off opportunities with other teams. Swider wants to put his name on that list with Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Orlando Robinson and others.

“It was a big part of my decision-making process,” Swider said. “There were a lot of teams that were interested. And a lot of ’em were interested in the same thing the Heat were interested in, an Exhibit 10 (tryout contract) and the opportunity to earn a two-way or a roster spot. But the success with the Heat with those guys gave me an easy decision, in terms of they’re going to give you a real opportunity in training camp, they’re going to give you real opportunities to get on the floor and play through mistakes and make the team.”

Swider, a 24-year-old small forward, signed a two-way contract with the Lakers after going undrafted out of Syracuse in 2022. He saw minimal playing time in seven games with L.A., spending most of the season in the G League.

Another reason Swider decided to go to Miami was the team’s need for outside shooting after losing Strus and Vincent in free agency. Swider is a shooting specialist, connecting at 50.6% from the field and 43.6% from beyond the arc in 27 G League games last season.

“Because of the type of guys like me in the past, they know how to use guys like me,” he said. “When I do something in pickup that looks like Duncan or Max or Gabe, they know how to use me in a game. It’s not like, ‘Oh, this only works in pickup.’”

There’s more from Miami:

  • Josh Richardson has aged well throughout his NBA career and should be a reliable rotation player this season, Winderman states in a mailbag column. Richardson, who was drafted by the Heat in 2015, returned to the organization this summer after playing for five teams in the last four years. Winderman notes that he relies on intelligence as much as speed and athleticism and has remained productive at age 30.
  • Jimmy Butler falls just short of the NBA’s exceptions in its new Player Participation Policy, but his medical history may give the Heat more opportunity to rest him, Winderman adds in another piece. Teams can petition the league to sit out players in back-to-back games if they’re at least 35 years old or have logged more than 34,000 career minutes or 1,000 total games in the regular season and playoffs. Butler is 34 with 29,513 minutes in 873 games, but his history of knee issues may qualify him to get approval under the PPP’s injury provision.
  • NBA Twitter was buzzing Saturday night when Heat guard Kyle Lowry was spotted alongside Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups at the Colorado-Colorado State football game (video link). Lowry is among the players who may be headed to Portland if the teams can agree on a Damian Lillard trade.

Northwest Notes: Henderson, Billups, Towns, Juzang, Tyson

Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said that developing lottery pick Scoot Henderson into a top-level point guard is a “personal” project, he told The Athletic’s David Aldridge.

“It’s personal for me,” said Billups, the 2004 Finals MVP. “‘Cause I just remember myself being that dude, third pick in the draft. The expectations. I want to give Scoot what I needed at the time. I can do that. I’ve done everything he wants to do in this league. I struggled mightily early, which I don’t see that happening with him.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves had some pre-draft discussions about a possible Karl-Anthony Towns trade, Ian Begley of SNY TV said on ESPN’s Zach Lowe podcast (hat tip to RealGM). “There were talks between the Timberwolves and other teams before the draft and Towns’ name came up,” Begley said. “I don’t know how aggressive the Timberwolves were with Towns, if at all.” Towns is entering the first year of his four-year super max extension.
  • Jazz summer league coach and developmental assistant Evan Bradds said he’s been pushing second-year swingman Johnny Juzang hard, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. Juzang had a high efficient 26-point outing in the team’s second Summer League game. “I want him to succeed, and I think over the [past] year, we were able to build a good relationship,” Bradds said. “I think if you ask him, he would want to be coached hard. So if you tell me you want me to coach hard, I’m gonna coach you hard, no matter what — when you’re good, when you’re bad. Even during the game, we get a little heated, and that’s OK, that’s part of it.” Juzang is an unrestricted free agent after the Jazz pulled their qualifying offer.
  • Second-round pick Hunter Tyson was a standout for the Nuggets in the Summer League, Matt Schubert of the Denver Post writes. Tyson averaged 20.8 points in five games and made half of his 3-point attempts. He also averaged 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Latest On Damian Lillard

Reports over the weekend indicated that the Trail Blazers are “open for business everywhere in the league” when it comes to Damian Lillard trade talks and are casting a wide net in an effort to get the best possible return.

However, the star guard has been “unwavering” in his desire to join the Heat, according to Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, who say that Lillard has conveyed to the Blazers that Miami is the only place he wants to play.

Chris Haynes essentially said the same thing in the latest episode of his #thisleague UNCUT podcast with Marc Stein. Asked by Stein if Lillard could be talked into another landing spot or if he’s dead-set on ending up with the Heat, Haynes simply replied, “Miami. Miami, Stein, Miami.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic also says that Lillard’s sole focus is on the Heat, acknowledging that the Blazers are exploring other scenarios but suggesting that there’s a “strong belief” around the league that Miami will be 32-year-old’s ultimate destination.

The two sides both appear at this point to be using media leaks to exercise as much leverage as possible. The Blazers’ discussions with other teams can be viewed as an effort to extract as much value out of the Heat as possible, whereas Lillard’s insistence on being sent to Miami may make other suitors wary of surrendering their top assets to acquire him, knowing that he’d be dissatisfied with the outcome, as Jackson, Chiang, and Charania write.

Here’s more on Lillard:

  • In the #thisleague UNCUT podcast, Stein suggested that there’s a widespread belief around the NBA that Sixers guard James Harden will end up being traded to the Clippers. Haynes responded by noting that the Clippers have also been in touch with the Trail Blazers to inquire on Lillard, though he adds that L.A. seems unlikely to acquire Dame.
  • The Timberwolves, Pelicans, and Celtics are among the other teams who “reached out to see what it would take” to land Lillard, Haynes reports. A deal with Minnesota would have had to involve Karl-Anthony Towns, according to Haynes, who says that idea was “quickly eliminated.”
  • Haynes also spoke on the podcast about the timeline that led to Lillard’s Saturday trade request, explaining that after Portland landed the No. 3 overall pick in the draft lottery, the longtime Blazer was told the team would look into trading it for win-now help. However, GM Joe Cronin called him two days before the draft to let him know Portland would likely keep its pick. In Lillard’s meeting with the Blazers this past Monday, he expressed his feeling that “promises weren’t kept,” per Haynes, but vowed to give the team a little more time to see if it could upgrade the roster on the trade market when free agency opened. When that didn’t happen right away, Lillard submitted his trade request to ensure that teams interested in acquiring him – such as the Heat – didn’t make other moves in free agency that would preclude such a deal.
  • According to Haynes, Lillard first entertained the idea of requesting a trade out of Portland in 2021. One of the reasons he decided against it at the time was because the Blazers hired Chauncey Billups, whom Dame greatly respects, as their head coach that summer. As Haynes details, Lillard didn’t want to put Billups in a position like Stephen Silas in Houston — Harden and Russell Westbrook requested trades shortly after Silas was hired in 2020, which derailed the veteran assistant’s first head coaching opportunity.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along a couple notes on the Lillard sweepstakes in a trade rumors round-up earlier today.

Latest On Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin will try to accommodate the trade request Damian Lillard made earlier today, but he will also operate in the best interests of his own team, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Rival front offices believe Cronin is looking for a “star-level” return and he’s willing to consider other teams besides Miami, which is Lillard’s preferred destination.

Cronin confirmed that sentiment in a statement he issued after the Lillard news was made public, saying, “We have been clear that we want Dame here, but he notified us today he wants out and he’d prefer to play someplace else. What has not changed for us is that we’re committed to winning, and we are going to do what’s best for the team in pursuit of that goal.” (Twitter link)

Tyler Herro, who has four years and $120MM left on his contract, is considered a vital part of any Heat deal for salary matching purposes. However, sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) that Cronin doesn’t view Herro as a good fit with his roster and would try to find a third team to take him if Lillard is traded to Miami. The Nets have been considered as a team that might take on Herro’s contract, according to Ian Begley of (Twitter link).

There’s also a sense that the Blazers won’t rush into a deal and will take their time to make sure they get the best return for Lillard, tweets Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.

Many teams are interested in acquiring Lillard, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, who names the Sixers, Clippers and Jazz among them. Amick reiterates that a third team would likely have to get involved for a trade with Miami to work.

Amick also examines what led to Lillard’s trade request, saying he was ready to ask for a deal when he and his agent met with Cronin on Monday. Cronin was able to talk Lillard into waiting to see what the team was able to do in free agency, but when no major additions took place Friday night, Lillard called coach Chauncey Billups and decided it was time to move on.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also has doubts that Lillard will end up in Miami, stating that the Heat’s potential best offer would be “one of the worst trades in NBA history.” He believes Miami would be willing to accept Jusuf Nurkic‘s contract along with Lillard, while sending back Herro, Kyle Lowry, Jaime Jaquez, Nikola Jovic, first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 and a pick swap in 2029. O’Connor points out that the deal wouldn’t give Portland a collection of valuable picks or young talent to build around.

O’Connor lists eight teams that he believes should be aggressively pursuing Lillard, starting with the Sixers. Philadelphia has indicated that it’s not willing to part with Tyrese Maxey, but if that changes, O’Connor views Maxey, two future first-rounders, a pick swap and expiring contracts as better than what Miami can offer. He points out that Sixers president Daryl Morey can pick up more trade assets by sending James Harden to the Clippers before addressing Lillard.

Blazers Rumors: Grant, Thybulle, Reddish, No. 3 Pick, Sharpe, More

Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant still appears on track to become a free agent this offseason rather than accepting the maximum four-year, $113MM extension he can sign until June 30. Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report said he doesn’t expect the annual salary on Grant’s next deal to be worth more than about $30MM, but suggests that the forward may be waiting until free agency in order to get a fifth year from Portland.

“I think it’s going to come out around five years, $150 million, with probably a player option,” Highkin said. “I know he gets talked about as one of the top free agents on the market, but I’d expect that gets done pretty quickly. It might even be a (6:01 pm) on June 30th type of signing.”

As for restricted free agents Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish, Highkin views Thybulle as the player who is more likely to re-sign with the Blazers, suggesting that the former Sixer will be a priority for the front office. Highkin is less certain about Portland’s appetite for a new deal with Reddish, telling Scotto that the team would probably have interest in bringing back the former lottery pick if the price is right.

Here are more highlights from the conversation between Scotto and Highkin:

  • Scotto has gotten the sense that the Trail Blazers are comfortable keeping the No. 3 overall pick and drafting either Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, even as they plan to continue building around Damian Lillard. However, Highkin believes Portland is far more likely to trade the pick for an established veteran, mentioning two-way forwards like Jaylen Brown and Pascal Siakam as potential targets while downplaying the likelihood of the club pursuing offensive-minded players like Zach LaVine. Another Raptors forward, OG Anunoby, has also been linked to the Blazers and would be a good fit on the roster, but Highkin doesn’t expect Portland to give up the No. 3 pick for Anunoby.
  • There are some people in Portland who believe Shaedon Sharpe has All-Star potential, according to Scotto. Highkin agrees that the Blazers are high on Sharpe and expects he’ll be kept out of any trade that doesn’t return a superstar (Joel Embiid or something like that”). Anfernee Simons is the more likely trade candidate, Highkin explains, given his larger cap hit and his fit next to Lillard. Sharpe, who has more size and defensive upside than Simons, is the more logical long-term backcourt partner for Dame.
  • The Blazers may make some changes to their coaching staff this summer to give Chauncey Billups some more experienced assistants, Highkin notes. The organization remains optimistic about Billups’ potential as a head coach and wants to give him an opportunity to lead a more competitive roster, Highkin adds.
  • When the Blazers signed Jusuf Nurkic to a four-year, $70MM contract last offseason, that didn’t necessarily mean they thought he was their center of the future, according to Highkin, who believes the team is “very open” to moving Nurkic and will explore trade possibilities this summer. Highkin suggests that Nurkic’s willingness to be shut down with a leg injury in 2021/22 when Portland went into tank mode played a part in Portland’s decision to “take care” of him in free agency last summer.

Northwest Notes: Malone, Watson, Edwards, Billups

The Nuggets have clinched the top seed in the West, but coach Michael Malone isn’t happy about the way his team is ending the regular season, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Even though there was little at stake, Malone used his regular starting lineup for Saturday’s game at Utah. They saw regular minutes for three quarters before the reserves took over in the final frame of a 118-114 loss. Malone was visibly upset after watching his team give up 59 rebounds and get dominated inside.

“Maybe I’m just wired a little differently, man, I’m (ticked) off right now,” Malone said in his postgame press conference. “… The moment you think that losing is OK, it’s just another game, that starts to seep into who you are, the essence of who you are. And I heard a long time ago, there’s two types of people, those who like to win and those who hate to lose.”

Malone added that he hasn’t determined who will play in Sunday’s regular season finale. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were both productive despite recent minor injuries, and Aaron Gordon said it’s important for all the regulars to stay active with the playoffs approaching.

“It’s not so much about motivation,” Gordon said. “It’s more about continuing to build good habits. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Peyton Watson has been a late-season bright spot for the Nuggets, and some of the league’s best players are noticing, Singer adds in another Denver Post story. Kevin Durant praised the rookie guard, whom he worked out with during the pandemic. “Just liked the type of dude he is, man, and we just built the friendship since there,” Durant said. “I’m rooting for him. He has a bright future.”
  • Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards feels like he’s getting back to normal after dealing with a sprained right ankle and an illness that affected most of the team, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Edwards scored 33 points in Saturday’s win over the Spurs, and he hopes it will lead to better things in the postseason. “I feel like I’m back to myself, the young guy in the locker room who bring all the energy,” Edwards said. “… I mean, it was a little frustrating, for real, because I couldn’t play how I wanted to play. I wasn’t having the best games. I wasn’t feeling like myself out there. It was just something I had to go through.”
  • Coach Chauncey Billups would like to see the Trail Blazers add more size and experience this offseason, tweets Mark Medina of “We’re one of the youngest teams in the league,” Billups said. “It’s tough to win that way. It’s almost impossible to win that way.”

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.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Payton II, Simons, Agbaji

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. participated in practice on a limited basis Monday for the first time since he suffered a heel injury, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Porter is unlikely to play Wednesday against the Wizards but the team is hopeful he can keep progressing at practice this week, including contact and live drills. He hasn’t played since Nov. 22.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Guard Gary Payton II is targeting his season debut in the next week or two, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. Payton signed a three-year, $26MM contract with the Trail Blazers as an unrestricted free agent in July, then had core muscle surgery during the offseason. Payton was a key rotation player on the Warriors’ championship team and the Blazers view him as a valuable reserve.
  • Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups has invested more time with Anfernee Simons than anyone else on the roster and it’s paying off, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. Simons, who signed a four-year, $100MM extension during the summer, is averaging 24.2 points and is shooting 39.2% from 3-point range. “He’s still like PlayDoh; we are still shaping him,” Billups said. “He’s still scratching the surface, in my opinion.”
  • It’s been a rough rookie campaign for the Jazz’s Ochai Agbaji thus far, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. The No. 14 overall pick has only appeared in 11 games, averaging 9.5 MPG, and has also struggled at the G League level. The Jazz are still sold on the former Kansas standout’s raw talent and athleticism.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Billups, Markkanen, Jazz, Wolves

The Trail Blazers‘ success so far this season is a reminder not to overreact to trades before waiting to see what the follow-up moves look like, says ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

As Marks outlines, the return in the Trail Blazers’ deadline trades involving CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Norman Powell, and Robert Covington was initially considered underwhelming, but those deals set them them up to acquire Jerami Grant (using a trade exception and draft pick from the McCollum/Nance deal) and to re-sign free agents Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic while avoiding the luxury tax.

In addition to Grant, two pieces acquired in last season’s trades – Josh Hart and Justise Winslow – have played crucial roles for the Blazers’ seventh-ranked defense, Marks adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • In what was a lost season for the Trail Blazers in 2021/22, Chauncey Billups didn’t get to make much of an impression as a first-time head coach. However, as Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, Billups has earned praise from Damian Lillard, among others, for his game management so far this season. “I beat myself up every night after games when I come home and watch it over again, wondering what I could have done better,” Billups said. “Could I have made an adjustment earlier? Could I have subbed a little earlier? Should I have taken my timeout … But I also and say, ‘I did it right there.'”
  • The Jazz aren’t viewing Lauri Markkanen as simply a wing, a stretch four, or a small-ball five, preferring to let him take advantage of his full skill set in a variety of roles, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. “For us, he’s all of those (things),” head coach Will Hardy said. “It’s like, why would we try to pigeonhole him into one thing?” Shelburne adds that the Cavaliers didn’t want to give up Markkanen, but when the two teams started discussing Donovan Mitchell trades, Utah insisted that the veteran forward be part of the return.
  • Although the Jazz lost to New York on Tuesday, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune notes that the players mentioned most enough in Knicks-related Mitchell trade rumors over the summer (RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes, and Immanuel Quickley) haven’t played all that well so far this season. In Larsen’s view, that group of players may not be worth even Markkanen, let alone Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji as well.
  • In a look at what lineups and player groupings have and haven’t worked for the Timberwolves this season, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune observes that the team’s up-and-down starting five has a net rating of +10.5 in its last three games together.