The Portland Trail Blazers have completed their preseason exhibition agenda and are actually waiting for the get started of the 2022-23 steady season. A brand new lineup and new doable each failed to materialize all through the season, ramp-up, leaving onlookers to speculate what the long run holds in retailer.
That uncertainty opens up questions for the Blazers that merely didn’t exist for the closing decade when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum remained pillars of fidelity.
Over the subsequent couple weeks, we’re going to read about a few of the ones questions, in particular ones highlighted as essential by means of Blazer’s Edge workforce and readers.
In our inaugural submit, we requested how Lillard would fare following stomach surgical treatment and his thirty second birthday. Next we mentioned the arrival of beginning energy ahead Jerami Grant, who operates in the territory between excellent and nice, apparently with a long-term rent, and explored the unmarried present Anfernee Simons wishes to deliver to the desk so as to make a distinction. We questioned whether or not the Blazers would ever discover a solid, workable position for heart Jusuf Nurkic. We additionally mentioned the visitors jam at small ahead and the way the crew may unravel it (or now not), plus the want to play higher on protection.
As the collection winds down, we’re going to check out the guy accountable for serving to the crew solution some of these questions, Head Coach Chauncey Billups.
Technically, this can be Billups’ 2nd season at the helm. It’s his first with an intact roster, despite the fact that. He made it thru the first 20 video games of the 2021-22 marketing campaign rather unscathed, however after that, accidents pressured him to cobble in combination an ever-more-fragile rotation out of reserves and add-ons. It was once one thing like going to Ruth’s Chris and being served Salisbury Steak. No subject the way you peeled the foil again on Portland’s lineup, it amounted to a salty, gooey mess.
Portland went 10-10 in the ones first 20 video games closing yr. They completed the season 27-55. Their beginning lineup in Game 82 learn: Keon Johnson, Reggie Perry, Brandon Williams, CJ Elleby, and Didi Louzada. Only Johnson stays with the crew as of late.
Despite 82 video games beneath his belt, Billups remains to be a rookie head trainer in the sensible sense. He’ll want to turn out himself to the locker room, control, and observers alike. We know he was once an achieved participant. Did he deserve the seat granted to him by means of former President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey?
Coaching is especially vital all through this yr of integration. The Blazers are operating 3 new starters into the lineup in Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, and Jerami Grant. Of the bench avid gamers, simplest Nassir Little predates the opening sport of closing season. Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic now stand like jutting promontories amid a sea of newness.
This can be the first yr for Portland’s starters to play beneath Billups’ machine as a unit, following ten years of rather predictability beneath Head Coach Terry Stotts. Lillard is most probably to fill a well-known defensive position, however Nurkic and the forwards can be used another way than in the previous. On the different finish, the ones glossy names will all need to contact the ball. Billups has to lend a hand his fees kind out a pecking order and ensure the offense flows sufficient to stay everybody happy-ish.
This isn’t a Duplo-kit roster. That field is marked ages 15+. Meanwhile Billups is, at highest, two. He didn’t trainer anyplace—school, highschool, G-League—prior to taking the lead place in Portland. The meeting directions aren’t inconceivable, however odds are he’s going to be slower at hanging in combination the tiny, intricate items than a extra skilled practitioner can be.
The returns in preseason weren’t sure. The Blazers didn’t simply lose, they were given blown out. Two key avid gamers—Nurkic and Simons—appeared misplaced. Nurkic is a cipher in the highest of instances; any trainer would wish to spend time excited about how to use him highest. His fractured preseason efficiency seemed to depart Billups empty-handed. Nurk switched techniques and ground place sport to sport. Nothing labored.
In reality, Billups gave the impression shocked all through massive swaths of the exhibition season. The distance between the schemes he certainly drew up on the whiteboard and what if truth be told confirmed up on the ground was once huge. That’s now not essentially against the law, given the setting, however once more, Billups has proven not anything up to now to point out that he can lend a hand the crew exchange direction, and even set up a sport that neatly. After 82 regular-season video games, two coaching camps, and two preseasons, we nonetheless know not up to Sergeant Schultz.
That, in itself, isn’t excellent. The state of affairs received’t be helped by means of a brutal stretch to get started the 2022-23 season agenda. If Portland isn’t ready and cohesive, they’re going to get their lunch, dinner, and 16 of the subsequent 17 breakfasts shoved proper again of their faces. A 7-13 get started to the yr received’t precisely breed self belief in the machine or Billups’ talent to flip it round.
This query now not simplest wishes to be spoke back, it wishes to be spoke back briefly. There’s no approach that Billups’ task is in peril at this level. The crew is prone to having to undertake the similar, “Toss it to Dame and Pray” technique that they had been making an attempt to break out from after they assembled this new lineup. They’re additionally prone to passing too shut to the gravitational pull of the 2023 Draft Lottery and now not being in a position to swing their approach out of it. Either of the ones scenarios can be disappointing.
The Blazers have ability, an All-NBA famous person, and the mentioned need to win this season. Whether they are able to pull all of it in combination stays to be noticed. The distinction between a aggressive yr and a wasted one will lie in how briefly they gel and what kind of good fortune they see from it. That leaves Chauncey Billups at the eye of the hurricane. We’re going to learn how, or whether or not, he can pilot his crew out of it.