Star point guard Damian Lillard has made his frustrations with the Trail Blazers clear, and tensions between some of the players and first-year coach Chauncey Billups are becoming increasingly evident, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic.
The Blazers (11-13) are coming off two blowout losses, and don’t appear as if they are headed for anything special with the current roster. They are also last in the league in defense, and Lillard seems to believe a trade for available 76ers guard/forward Ben Simmons (one of the NBA’s top perimeter defense) could help change that.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for the Blazers, who fired longtime coach Terry Stotts, replaced him with Billups. They then fired longtime GM Neil Olshey last week following an investigation into workplace misconduct.
The one thing the Blazers did not do is make the significant roster changes Lillard requested during the offseason.
Olshey had the framework of a deal in place that would have sent guard CJ McCollum, a first-round draft pick and either Nassir Little or Anfernee Simons to the 76ers for Simmons, Charania and Amick reported.
The Sixers, however, were seeking McCollum and multiple picks and pick swaps — which the Blazers rejected.
Meanwhile, Olshey basically ignored Lillard’s offseason request for a roster shakeup, as well as Lillard’s desire for an experienced head coach, with the likes of Jason Kidd (now Mavericks head coach) and Mike D’Antoni (now an advisor with the Pelicans) supposedly being near the top of Lillard’s list, Charania and Amick reported.
Billups is in his first season as a head coach anywhere and the Blazers have failed to live up to his promise of an improved defense. He also has a tendency to publicly call out the players, something that apparently isn’t sitting well with the men in uniform.
That said, Lillard has not requested a trade and intends to give the Blazers time to find a new GM before making any career decisions, per Charania and Amick.
“Lillard’s decline in production is also contributing to his frustration,” relayed Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors. “He’s dealing with an abdominal injury that will keep him out of action at least through the end of the week. His scoring average has fallen from 28.8 PPG last season to 21.5 PPG now.
“He’s getting fewer shots in Billups’ offense and is connecting at a career-worst 39.7% from the field and 30.2% on three-pointers. He’s also being used in pick-and-rolls less frequently than under Stotts and is seeing fewer free throw attempts.”
As for Simmons, there’s still no word on his immediate future. He is sitting out and reports says he still intends to never suit up again for the 76ers.
Trade talks involving Simmons have continued, though many around the league believe a trade won’t come until after Dec. 15, when players who signed offseason deals are eligible to be traded. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 10.