Blazers Rumors: Damian Lillard Frustrated; Tension Rising Between Billups and Players

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) brings the ball up court in the first half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has reportedly grown frustrated with the direction of the team as tension builds between the locker room and coach Chauncey Billups.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on an increasingly dysfunctional Blazers organization, which fired president of basketball operations Neil Olshey for cause last week after an investigation found workplace misconduct.

Portland is 11-13 after Saturday's 145-117 loss to the Boston Celtics and has many of the same issues that plagued the roster under former coach Terry Stotts. The Blazers are last in the NBA in defensive efficiency, an area Billups was supposed to clean up, and are an abysmal 1-10 on the road.

Lillard is in the midst of arguably the worst season of his career, averaging 21.5 points (his lowest mark in seven seasons), 7.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He's shooting a career-worst 39.7 percent from the field, including a career-worst 30.2 percent from beyond the arc. The All-Star guard has been out since Nov. 29 with lower abdominal tendinopathy.

The Blazers have undergone massive organizational upheaval over the last year, firing Stotts and Olshey, while CEO Chris McGowan resigned. The team also faced significant backlash over the Billups hiring after rape allegations from his playing career resurfaced.

While the reaction to Billups' hiring led to some questions about Lillard's future in Portland, he's made several clarifying remarks to commit to the franchise. 

“Everybody is saying what they think I’m thinking, and what they think I’m going to do, but like, I’m not leaving Portland, you know?” Lillard told Jason Quick of The Athletic in mid-October.

Lillard said Billups' arrival was a major component in making him want to stay, but the coach's approach appears to be grating on players. Portland has no intention of trading Lillard unless he makes it clear he wants out, so roster shuffling could take place if the Blazers don't turn it around soon.