One of the lost items in all of Damian Lillard’s trade talks this offseason was his relationship with new Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether Portland can build an adequate roster around Lillard. But it’s entirely possible that Billups, replacing Terry Stotts, could make the most significant difference by providing a fresh perspective off the bench. Lillard commented on Billups’ coaching style on Tuesday, and his comments should get Blazers fans excited about the team’s potential this season.
Damian Lillard appreciates Chauncey Billups’ insight as former NBA point guard
Damian Lillard seems to like Chauncey Billups’ perspective as a former player.
Lillard spoke about his first impressions of Billups’ coaching style as the Blazers opened training camp this week. The former NBA Rookie of the Year said he liked the way Billups approached the game as a former point guard rather than just using Xs and Os.
Billups’ methods might resonate more with Dame and the other players on Portland’s roster, given his pedigree as a respected NBA player.
Mr. Big Shot made five All-Star Teams and earned three All-NBA selections. He led an underdog Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA title against a powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers. These Pistons teams in the mid to late 2000s were as complete as any in league history. As a point guard, Billups played a vital role in helping Detroit run like a well-oiled machine.
Despite a decent track record of success in Portland, Stotts never seemed to inspire enthusiasm in his players. Billups might be the kind of head coach who can do just that, and it all starts with his relationship with Lillard.
Billups’ relationship with Lillard is crucial to Portland’s success
Initially, Portland’s decision to hire Billups complicated Damian Lillard’s future with the Blazers.
Lillard listed Billups and Jason Kidd as his top candidates for the vacant head coaching job after the Blazers fired Stotts. But he expressed doubts after reports surfaced of a sexual assault allegation against Billups from 1997. Blazers general manager Neil Olshey ended investigations into the allegation at the conference. Billups’ introductory press, further obscuring the situation and raising skepticism about the verification process.
Many questions remain about Billups’ story. On the pitch, however, it’s imperative that he develop a relationship with Lillard.
A disgruntled Lady doesn’t bode well for Portland. Alternatively, a symbiotic dynamic between Lillard and Billups could see the Blazers take a necessary leap as they hope to face off in a busy Western Conference.
How can Billups get the most out of Dame and the Blazers?
Scoring the ball has never been a problem for Lillard and the Blazers. Portland ranked second in offensive rating and Lillard is surrounded by guys who can space the floor and create their own shots.
It’s poor defense that has plagued the Blazers, especially in pick-and-roll. Portland’s shortcomings in those sets have played a big part in past playoff losses, especially to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Interestingly, Billups is already working on a cure.
Jason Quick of The Athletic reported that Portland’s new head coach placed a heavy emphasis on pick-and-roll defense early in camp, particularly when it came to the dynamic between point guard and big man. Billups encourages his players to get into the zone of opposing ballhandlers rather than giving them space to shoot or drive.
“We’re trying to keep the guard from turning the corner and going down in our defense,” Billups said, via Quick.
Asked about the new approach, Lillard said, “I really like it.” He and Jusuf Nurkic both seem to appreciate Billups’ desire to be more aggressive.
Blazers fans expect greatness from Lillard. He’s arguably been one of the top two playmakers in the league over the past few seasons and told Quick he felt fresher than ever coming into this camp.
Portland needs another special season from Dame. Early indications are that he and his Blazers teammates are more motivated than ever, which seems to have a lot to do with Billups’ coaching style.
Statistics provided by Basketball Reference.
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