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Report: Damian Lillard could leave Trail Blazers due to blowback over Chauncey Billups hire

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard

PORTLAND, OREGON - JUNE 03: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets during Round 1, Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center on June 03, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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As backlash mounts over the Trail Blazers’ decision to hire Chauncey Billups as coach, Damian Lillard has been defensive on Twitter:

Could Lillard go on the offensive, even doing something as drastic as requesting a trade?

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The enormous backlash from the Portland Trail Blazers’ process to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built have become factors that may push the franchise player — Damian Lillard — out the door, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large due to the tremendous fan base. But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said.

It seems inaccurate to say Lillard played no role in the Trail Blazers hiring Billups. Lillard publicly endorsed Billups’ candidacy. Lillard also reportedly joined Billups’ virtual job interview.

But it wasn’t Lillard’s responsibility to investigate a 1997 rape accusation against Billups.

Billups denied it and was never charged criminally. He settled a civil suit. Decades later, it’s difficult to evaluate properly.

This saga also unfolds as Lillard is reportedly feeling antsy. Portland lost in the first round this year despite his on-court heroics. With Lillard already in place, the Trail Blazers will have a tough time clearing cap space or getting the high draft picks usually necessary to significantly improve the roster.

Lillard had been so exceptionally loyal to Portland. For him to force his way out would be a stark departure from his previous stance.

For now, this feels like a warning shot by a player who feels increasingly frustrated.