George Karl's tour of verbal destruction has a new target: Trail Blazers point guard and Oakland-native Damian Lillard.
When discussing Carmelo Anthony and other current players who focus on their interests off the court, Karl mentioned that he was bothered by something he saw recently.
"I was watching the Portland Trailblazers play, and I was trying to figure out 'What the hell is wrong with this team?' My conclusion is that Damian Lillard is getting too much attention," Karl said in an interview with the NY Magazine.
Karl was asked to elaborate.
"Who controls the team? The coach and the point guard. And that team is not working. I think their coach, Terry Stotts, is a great coach. So I’m going to say the problem is Lillard. They were a together, connected, committed team last year. This year they’re not. What changed?" Karl said.
Hours after Karl's comments were published, Lillard's agent Aaron Goodwin issued a statement to ESPN's Chris Haynes:
"That's silly. I have always loved and respected George, way back when he coached Gary Payton. But with that observation, he sounds like an idiot. He couldn't get anyone in this league to agree with him on that assessment. If it's either the coach or the point guard, the point guard runs the coaches plays......I guess that explains him becoming a writer....," Goodwin wrote.
Karl's relationship with Blazers head coach Terry Stotts runs deep. Stotts played for Karl in the Continental Basketball Association. When he finished playing, he joined Karl's coaching staff in the CBA. Stotts also served as an assistant when Karl coached the Seattle Sonics and Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA.
About 90 minutes before the Blazers were set to take on the Kings Wednesday, Stotts addressed Karl's comments.
"As you know, I owe a lot to George. I got my start in coaching with George. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for him, he's a successful coach. That being said, if he wants to diminish his chances for the Hall of Fame, if he wants to undermine his chances to be a head coach again in this league, if he wants to settle old scores with GMs or players or whoever else, that's his prerogative. But when it comes my team and my players, he needs to stay in his own lane. He doesn't know Damian Lillard, he doesn't know how coachable he is, he doesn't know what a great teammate he is, he doesn't know how much Damian cares about winning and how important he is to this franchise," Stotts told reporters in Portland, according to beat writer Casey Holdahl.
Portland finished with a 44-38 record in 2015-16 and secured the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference before losing to the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. This season, they've fallen on hard times. Through 33 games, they are 13-20 and are in 10th place in the West entering play Wednesday.
Lillard, who is dealing with a sprained ankle, is not expected to play Wednesday against the Kings. In 32 games, the two-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 27 points per contest.