Report: Trail Blazers players frustrated with Chauncey Billups’ demeanor
How is that going over?
The biggest source of frustration in Portland: The Trail Blazers have lost five straight and eight of nine. Winning cures most ills.
But it’s fair to question whether Billups’ approach is contributing to Portland’s struggles. Problems can build on each other and snowball.
Ultimately, it mostly matters whether one Trail Blazer in particular is still buying in. Obviously, Damian Lillard is essential to Portland’s long-term outlook. He also holds a significant leadership position. His teammates usually rally behind him – whether that’s following the coach or maybe even resisting.
Among Billups’ challenges: He’s a first-time head coach who hasn’t proven he is doing enough to help his team win. When someone like Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich has called out his players, they know the coach is capable of delivering his part. Billups has yet to earn that type of credibility.
Billups was hired to help fix the Trail Blazers’ woeful defense. But they still rank 28th in points allowed per possession.
Of course, they can improve in time. Going from Terry Stotts’ more-lenient approach to Billups’ strict accountability can be jarring. Perhaps, a rough transition will yield an improved defense.
But Billups can’t lose the team first.
Billups carries a cachet as a former great player with a long and varied career. He knows what it’s like to be a star, a role player and a benchwarmer. His communication skills are strong. We don’t know everything he tells his players. His private messaging could be less harsh, more trust-building.
That said, Billups’ Pistons teams circa 2006/2007 were known for waiting to flip a switch. A team not competing hard enough shouldn’t totally shock him. It’s a somewhat-common NBA issue for a coach to face. Billups has jumped headfirst into confronting it his way.
With Lillard’s situation somewhat settled right now, this is the defining issue of Billups’ early coaching tenure.