There has been a lot said since Chauncey Billups was hired as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. It was clearly time for the Blazers to make the switch. Terry Stotts was no longer the man for the job, and maybe he hadn’t been for quite some time. I am here to say that this is a good hire. Billups is a voice the Blazers need and someone that will help create success on the court past just a first-round exit.
If Portland wants to capitalize on a successful roster with Damian Lillard on it, they had to bring in a head coach that would make a difference. The days of wasting away his talent and exiting the playoffs far too soon had to stop. While Stotts was a likable coach, he would never be the guy for Portland, and this move probably should have come a few years ago.
In today’s NBA, finding a voice representing that of your players is more important than ever. Players want a coach to relate to and have walked in their shoes. That’s why Chauncey Billups fits in so well. The new coach was a great player when he was in the league from 1997 to 2014. He knows what it takes to be a team’s best player, having gone to five All-Star games, being named to multiple All-NBA second and third teams, and being an All-NBA Defensive Second-Teamer.
The most important thing from Billups’s playing days is that he is a proven winner. Billups won the 2005 NBA Finals and was named the NBA Finals MVP. He took down Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to get the trophy when he averaged more than 39 minutes a game and over 18 points throughout that playoff run.
On top of that, he was a good guy to have in the locker room and help lead the teams he was on. He won the NBA Sportsmanship Award; he was the NBA Teammate of the Year, he had his number 1 jersey retired by the Pistons, and was even given a citizenships award.
There is no question that a player who sees this resume will know they are dealing with a guy who means business and has walked the walk. There are different coaches from different backgrounds who are all successful. Still, recently, NBA players have made it clear that they want former players and someone who realizes and understands the daily grind that goes into being a player.
Take, for example, the Boston Celtics this offseason. Danny Ainge stepped down and retired, which elevated Brad Stevens to the basketball operations position. They needed to find a replacement and had a much bigger voice and influence than Stevens did over the last few seasons. According to The Athletic, “the Celtics are looking for a coach with playing experience, and all indications point to the team pursuing a person of color for the role.”
If that was the feeling inside the Celtics locker room, you could bet that was the feeling inside the Blazers locker room as well. Before news of Chauncey Billups’s alleged sexual assault from 1997 that did not result in a conviction of Billups, Lillard was supportive of him as the next head coach of Portland.
There were other good options out there for the Blazers as well, but Jason Kidd removed himself from the process, Becky Hammon got an interview, and many other teams had an interest in Billups. It seemed like Portland struck fast and made a move to be a winner ultimately.
Billups had everything that the Blazers were looking for, and it all came at the right time. While Lillard said he would miss Stotts and that his Blazers memories include Stotts in them, I’m sure that deep-down, Dame knew it was time for a change. As one of the greatest competitors in the NBA, there is no way he is happy with the team’s performance over the last few years and how he has been supported. The Blazers may have now run out of time on the Lillard clock if he does end up leaving via trade this offseason, but at least they are trying now.
This new era of Blazers basketball could be a lot tougher and demanding than in years past. Think about those great Pistons’ teams that Billups was on. They were physical, mean, and intimidating. The man himself, Rip Hamilton, who played alongside Billups, gave his voice in support of his former teammate as a head coach in the Association.
“Yeah!” he responded when asked by TMZ Sports if he wants his former teammate to coach in Portland. “Chauncey wants to coach right now. Hopefully, he gets that opportunity.”
While there are still doubters, critics, and those who are upset, which is perfectly acceptable and respectable to feel that way, I like this as a basketball hire. I like this for the Blazers to actually have a shot at going deep into the postseason. I like this as a way of apologizing for the last few years of inaction from the front office. This is a new and needed era for the Portland Trail Blazers.