Portland Trail Blazers Season-In-Review – Why Portland Is Very Lucky To Have Chauncey Billups

While Chauncey Billups Has A Losing Record As Their Coach (Even Being Over A Season Worth of Games Below 0.500), Portland Is Very Lucky To Have Him

In short, Billups has proven his mettle as a head coach, showing the same competitive fire, determination, and grit he did as a Hall of Fame (HOF) player.

While the desired results obviously aren’t there (yet), I believe Chauncey Billups, aka Mr. Big Shot (Biggie, for short), has it in him to also be a HOF coach.

In lieu of actual wins then (which I do think will come), his performance to date is best measured by his intangibles and the small victories he’s managed to win amidst so much losing.  The latter is no small feat and is what provides us with the best predictive evidence of what to expect moving forward – winning, maybe even a whole lot of it and at the highest of levels (championships).

For Billups, both as a player and coach, it’s all about the journey.  “The phrase… sewn into his Adidas game shoes during his 17-year NBA career” will yet prove instructive now that he’s a Head Coach: “‘If it ain’t rough, it ain’t right.’

It certainly has been ‘rough’ in Blazerland, so I’m looking very forward to Mr. Big Shot making it ‘right.’

Rare is the person who is hired for one job, tasked with an entirely different one, and still manages to excel.  And yet, that is exactly what Biggie has done.  Bigg-ups (Bigg[ie-Bill]ups) was initially hired to lead the Trail Blazers back to the playoffs and to improve their ghastly defense.

But in Chauncey Billups’ first two seasons as coach, extensive injuries and a defensively disinterested Damian Lillard made both goals mere pipe dreams.  In fairness to Dame, though, a core muscle injury likely played a role in his disinterest, for which he had abdominal surgery in January of Billups’ 1st season, eventually bringing an end to Lillard’s and effectively ending the Blazers’.

Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian/OregonLive did a bang-up job of recapping Mr. Big Shot’s 2nd season, including this tidbit:

“Through the first few months of the season, falling into the lottery didn’t seem likely. Damian Lillard was back to All-Star form after appearing in just 29 games [the prior]season. Jerami Grant proved to be a perfect fit. The defense got off to a strong start. Then, slowly, the season began to crumble.”

(https://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/2023/04/trail-blazers-once-promising-season-was-foiled-by-injuries-inconsistency-where-do-they-go-from-here.html, subscription required)

And boy, did it crumble, with the Blazers finishing with the NBA’s fifth-worst record.

For those of you who HAVE been able to get the stink of last season (Biggie’s 3rd) out of your nose and want to relive it, here’s a trip down memory lane:

Mid[ish]season check-in: https://oregonsportsnews.com/be-not-dismayed-portland-trail-blazer-fans-this-season-is-all-about-the-aladdins/

End[ish]season check-in: https://oregonsportsnews.com/the-process-as-ive-come-to-call-this-portland-trail-blazers-season-has-been-oh-so-painful/

Season-In-Review (Part 1): https://oregonsportsnews.com/portland-trail-blazers-season-in-review-lets-talk-about-scoot-henderson/

Going into Bigg-ups’ 3rd season, things had certainly changed for him and the organization.  The focus wasn’t on winning anymore, as it was going into his 1st and 2nd seasons, but on player development.  And Chauncey Billups crushed it on this front!  Just look at this long list of Aladdins – the Portland Trail Blazers Diamonds in the Rough (in order highlighted in the check-ins/review above):

  1. The Defensive Anchor – DeAndre Ayton
  2. The Defensive Maven – Toumani Camara
  3. The Next Man Up, Exhibit 1A – Shaedon Sharpe
  4. “The” Aladdin – Anfernee Simons
  5. Scoot To My Lou – Scoot Henderson

Other notables that could easily be added to this list (in order highlighted by Aaron Fentress) include:

But make no mistake, Mr. Big Shot is a winner, it’s part of his DNA.  Winning and playing the right way is what he’s all about:

“‘I wasn’t no stat chaser or I’m gonna go get 35 and average 25 and 10,’ Billups said. ‘I wasn’t that player. Most people don’t think that they can reach their goals, get paid, get this and get that when they just play the right wa​​y.’

“‘When I say ‘play the right way,’ I play for my team. I didn’t play to make the All-Star Game [or]to be on the cover of ESPN Magazine. I played to try to win and make my teammates better. And by doing that I accomplished being an All-Star. I won a championship playing that way. Now I made the Hall of Fame playing that way. Whether that got me into the Hall of Fame or not, I just, I found solace in playing that way.’”


And here he is after his 2nd season, also from the aforementioned Aaron Fentress Recap:

“‘Sucks to lose,’ Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. ‘I’ll just stand on that. It always sucks to lose. And get to this point in the season — I didn’t think that we would be here like last year, to be very honest with you. But we are.’

“‘These games are tough. They’re tough on me. Tough on all of us, but me as the coach, me as the leader, it sucks. It sucks, it really does. I don’t have no other way about that. I understand what’s going on and where we’re at, but it sucks. It sucks. I don’t like it at all.’”

And again, after this developmental year, while also speaking to being hired to do one job and then being tasked with another:

[But first, some context: Portland ranked second in most games missed due to injury, which forced coach Chauncey Billups to play 40 different starting lineups, the most since he took over as coach in 2021. This included 297 missed games for the team’s top eight players.]

“‘Th[is]wasn’t my plan when I came here,’ Billups said. ‘We had a veteran-laden team at the time, hopefully trying to take a step up. But things change, and I’ve been fine with that.’

“To a certain point…

“‘I thought we did a great job with what we were able to bring back for Dame,’ Billups said. ‘I really thought that I would be able to develop some of our young guys but also really compete. Trying to get into the play-in.’

“‘When we could just never get any continuity with bodies out there, it became very apparent that we probably weren’t gonna be able to do both [win and develop],’ Billups said. ‘And it was frustrating because all I care about is winning.’”


Most importantly, when Biggie has had a fuller/healthier complement of players, he’s shown an aptitude for actual winning, 1, and competing, 2.

1). The best example of winning came in the form of Portland’s Hot Start to the 2022-23 season, as detailed in the Fentress Recap:

“The season began amazingly well for the Blazers. By Nov. 15, they stood at 10-4 and sat atop the Western Conference standings. They would remain there for four days even after losing 109-107 at home to Brooklyn. Among those 10 wins were victories over Sacramento, Phoenix (twice), the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver, Miami, and New Orleans — all current playoff or play-in teams.

“[Even t]he defense appeared to be fixed during this stretch as the Blazers allowed just 107.6 points per game.”

2). Given all the injuries, this past season gave us the best example of competing, no doubt a byproduct of the culture Bigg-ups has built over his 3 seasons, predicated on ‘play[ing]the right way.’

The Evidence for which I laid out in my Mid[ish]season (see The Defensive Anchor) & End[ish]season check-ins.  This comes from the latter:

Since The Bludgeoning of early January (when they were without The[ir] Defensive Anchor), so from January 17th to the present [April 8th], the Trail Blazers have only won 11 games but have only lost by an average of 12.3 points, IF you flush the aforementioned drubbing by the Heat….

This calculus does include a 37-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 15th….  If you flush this game as well, the team’s competitiveness is even more impressive, dropping their average margin of defeat nearly a whole point to 11.35.

Considering the number of injuries the Blazers have dealt with this season, this is impressive stuff. It also puts to rest whether Coach Billups still has the team’s attention. He and his staff obviously have been very purposeful in their approach. While the losing does suck, this by no means has been a lost season.

It’s a marvel, a wonder beyond even, that this team kept fighting.  There is no better reflection of Chauncey Billups than the players showing the very same competitive fire, determination, and grit as their Head Coach.

While it has been ‘rough’, one thing the franchise has gotten ‘right’, is bringing Mr. Big Shot in to be Rip City’s coach.  This is a team and culture we should all be able to get behind.  I mean, who doesn’t like basketball being ‘play[ed]the right way!?

It’s past time for Joe Cronin to put [Jody’s] money where his mouth is, having gone public with an endorsement, and sign Biggie to an extension.

Per Sports Illustrated/Si.com’s Chris Mannix, “If Billups leaves Portland, he would immediately emerge as a candidate for other jobs.”

If Bigg-ups being in demand, despite having a losing record (81-165), isn’t the best evidence yet in support of an extension, I don’t know what is.

In the event you (and Cronin & his Cronies) are still not convinced, I give you Doc Rivers as Chauncey Billups’s coaching comp.  Now, before you go all bitter-beer face on me, I’m thinking of the “Heart and Hustle” era of the Orlando Magic, the ultimate product of which was Ben Wallace, a HOF.  Doc Rivers was the coach, and a Coach of the Year at that.

But for all the good work he did for the Magic, Rivers was fired, only to win an NBA Championship on the next stop of his coaching tour with the Boston Celtics.

I view Coach Billups as being on the same championship trajectory.  I just hope it doesn’t come at the next stop of his coaching tour.

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About Jason Poulsen 19 Articles
As a former collegiate basketball player, with a great deal of emphasis on the former, my passion for the game has since led me on quite the journey. Writing for the Oregon Sports News, along with the effort I’m putting in to finally get a long ago developed proprietary basketball performance analytical tool off the ground, represent full circle moments. There have been a multitude of stops & roles along the way, the pertinent ones being Assistant to Director of Basketball Operations, Basketball Operations Assistant, NBA Draft Statistical Analyst, & Sports Writer, & the less pertinent – Store Manager, Lids Sports Group. I suppose one hasn’t really lived unless they’ve worked in retail or so I’ve told myself.