Bill Oram: Blazers coach Chauncey Billups gets a do-over after ‘unbelievable’ and ‘difficult’ 1st season

Let’s briefly recap Chauncey Billups’ inaugural season because the Trail Blazers head coach:

The celebrity he concept he was once going to coach underwent season-ending surgical procedure.

The crew he concept he was once going to steer was once totally dismantled.

And goals of a playoff run have been changed via a near-nightly ritual of 30-point losses.

Far from splendid for a first-timer.

And ahead of all of that, the boss who employed him was once disregarded.

“You know,” Billups stated from at the back of his table remaining month, “most of the time this is a scary situation for a coach that was hired by someone else.”

But Billups is unfazed via his scenario.

If the rest, he has a fair higher courting with basic supervisor Joe Cronin than he did along with his predecessor, Neil Olshey, who was once fired remaining December following an interior investigation into place of job behavior.

“I am so happy with the synergy that Joe and I have,” Billups stated.

Billups changed into the lighthouse within the typhoon for the Blazers amid their turmoil remaining season, however even because the Blazers unexpectedly rebuilt, one essential query stays unanswered.

Just how just right of a coach is he?

Blazers enthusiasts didn’t get to determine remaining season. And neither, via the way in which, did Billups.

Starting with Wednesday’s season opener at Sacramento, the 46-year-old will necessarily get a do-over on a “difficult” first season that absolutely upended his expectancies for the process.

“The biggest thing is last year I prepared as much as I could, but you just don’t know what you don’t know,” he stated.

The in-demand former NBA Finals MVP realized that once he arrived as Terry Stotts’ substitute 18 months in the past.

The Blazers had reached the playoffs in 8 consecutive seasons. Talented veterans flanked Damian Lillard. There was once reason why to be constructive. “I felt pretty good about it,” Billups stated. And then?

“Very quickly,” he stated, “things changed.”

That’s hanging it mildly.

Change occurs within the NBA. What the Blazers had was once chaos.

Lillard gave the impression in most effective 29 video games and none after the brand new 12 months.

In an effort to rejuvenate a core that had time and again stalled — and to dip underneath the luxurious tax threshold — the Blazers have been thrown into a midseason rebuild.

The Blazers received simply two video games after the All-Star destroy. Of their 20 losses in that span, 16 have been via double digits and 10 of the ones via a minimum of 30 issues.

Billups likened the surprising adjustments to the start of his taking part in occupation, when he was once traded in each and every of his first 3 seasons and performed for 6 groups in his first six years.

“I was just trying to get my footing and it almost resembled that for me in my first year as a coach,” he stated. “It was unbelievable, man. It was unbelievable.”

That painful stretch of dropping, somewhat temporary via NBA tanking requirements, helped land new supporting figures like Jerami Grant, Josh Hart, Gary Payton II and Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 7 general select.

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups provides directions right through an NBA preseason sport in opposition to the Utah Jazz at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.Sean Meagher/The Oregonian

Now, a 12 months after Billups first stepped into the arena of NBA head training, the Blazers are as soon as once more hoping to be within the combine for a playoff spot within the Western Conference.

And that suggests their coach is as soon as once more at the spot in a means he wasn’t for a lot of remaining season, when there have been few alternatives for him to attract up a killer end-of-game play or to exhibit his imaginative and prescient for taking drive off of Lillard.

“It kind of hindered my development a little bit,” Billups said.

Billups has lengthy been praised for his simple verbal exchange taste with gamers. He is fond of claiming that he is in a position to cling Lillard responsible the similar means he can a rookie. It’s what made him a fashionable teammate as a participant and in-demand candidate for nearly each place within the NBA ahead of he landed in Portland.

He was once pursued for entrance place of work jobs. He labored as an announcer. His get started in training got here along Tyronn Lue for a season with the Clippers.

He leans on mentors like Lue in addition to his former coach Doc Rivers and former teammate coach Monty Williams.

“There’s a ton of things I’m still kind of learning that I’m going to continue learning as a coach,” Billups stated.

But he was once relentlessly aggressive as a participant. He isn’t the type of individual you watched lacks self-confidence.

So it isn’t surprising that he expects to search out luck on this position, too.

“I believe I have all the intangibles that make an excellent coach,” he stated. “And I won’t stop until I am.”

Billups is aware of higher than to suppose he is aware of what to anticipate from the approaching season. A lackluster preseason raised questions concerning the new-look Blazers’ dedication to protection and how new gamers are compatible along Lillard.

But when he shared his big-picture view of items again in September, Billups noticed quite a few assets of positivity.

“The West is obviously tough and I’m not unrealistic at all,” he stated. “I’ve done it, I know what it looks like and feels like. I do think we’re going to be a pretty good team.”

He trusts within the imaginative and prescient that he has helped put in force along Cronin. The two, each from Denver, are in consistent verbal exchange. And Billups believes that this roster is constructed much more in his symbol than the crew he felt so just right about remaining season.

Grant, Hart and Payton all give the Blazers a promising defensive outlook — regardless of the preseason effects. And there’s no discounting the go back of Lillard following surgical procedure to fix an stomach pressure that had hampered him for years.

“Not only do you have him back,” Billups stated, “you really have him.”

It’s set as much as be a a lot better alternative for Billups to exhibit his training chops and lay a basis for the Blazers’ subsequent bankruptcy.

But via now Billups is aware of higher than to suppose he is aware of what to anticipate.

Bill Oram

boram@oregonian.com | Twitter: @billoram

For extra Bill Oram, subscribe to his podcast, Sports via Northwest, anyplace you concentrate to podcasts.

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