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 under head coach Chauncey Billups, who was hired in the summer of 2021. However, a high-ranking source within the organization tells Jason Quick of ‘The Athletic’ that the idea of firing Billups “hasn’t even crossed [their] minds.”
Billups has also received endorsements from several of Portland’s most important players, including Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant and (of most importance) Damian Lillard. Grant, who is eligible for free agency this upcoming offseason, said that outsiders calling for Billups to be fired are “stupid,” adding that he remains “ready to run through a wall” for his coach.
For his part, Billups told Quick that he is in frequent contact with Blazers general manager Joe Cronin and is not particularly concerned about his job security.
“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 will have three years remaining on his contract at the start of the 2023-24 season, has led the Blazers to a 58-94 (.382) record since taking the reins from Terry Stotts. Portland had hoped the first-time head coach could help stabilize a defense that had been one of the NBA’s worst during Stotts’ final seasons with the organization, but at least to date, there has been no real improvement in that area — the Blazers ranked 29th in defensive rating in 2021-22 and currently sit at 27th in 2022-23.
Still, as Quick points out, Billups has not been dealt an easy hand in Portland. The team underwent a front office overhaul just months after his hiring and saw its franchise player (Lillard) limited to just 29 games during his inaugural run with the Blazers 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 while others – Josh Hart and Gary Payton II – were moved this winter.
“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.’
Acknowledging that his win-loss record has not passed muster, Billups said that his performance should also be evaluated based on the culture he has helped cultivate 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.
By his own metrics, Billups rated himself “good” on the first point and “very good” on the other two.