Blazers' Damian Lillard on Chauncey Billups: 'Speaks His Mind, and You Respect That'December 10, 2021
The Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to an 11-15 record this season. And though first-year head coach Chauncey Billups has been critical of the team, Blazers star Damian Lillard respects that his coach puts all of his thoughts on the table.
“He speaks his mind, and you respect that,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “And I think it’s important that he does so. He’s seen it all.”
Billups also spoke with Haynes and explained his approach to his "tough love" coaching style.
“I just feel like every game as we’re trying to get better, I owe it to these dudes to coach them. So I don’t see it that way like I’m calling them out,” Billups told Yahoo Sports. “I’m not going to be on the podium calling names. I’ll do that in person with the guys. But on the podium, I’ll generalize. I’ll say, ‘Listen, we got to be better or we didn’t compete.’ I’m not going to call anybody's name, and I’m not going to disrespect any of my guys because I care too much and I know how that feels. But, I owe it to them to be honest and to coach them. And I only know one way to do that, and that’s just with honesty."
The comments from Lillard and Billups come after a story from The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick cited sources who claimed Lillard had grown "frustrated" with the team's play and that tension appeared to be building between the players and Billups.
The report noted Billups ripped into Blazers players following their 145-117 loss to the Boston Celtics on Dec. 4.
“Competitive fire and pride, that’s something you either have or don’t have,” Billups said. “That’s something you can’t turn off and turn on. … I’ve never seen a team that needs its bench to inspire our starters. That s--t is crazy to me. It’s supposed to be the other way around.”
However, Lillard appeared to deny the report on social media:
Lillard, who has spent his entire career in Portland, has always been the subject of rumors, specifically regarding trades. However, he recently stated he wasn't leaving the Blazers, and Billups is a big reason why.
“I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told Jason Quick The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”
So while things are definitely rocky right now, it certainly seems like the star guard plans to stay put for the time being and help Portland right the ship.
The Trail Blazers, who have lost their past four games, will look to get back on track Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.