The Portland Trail Blazers recently hired Chauncey Billups as their new head coach, and now he’ll have a former Coach of the Year in Scott Brooks as a top assistant on his staff.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Brooks will be joining the Blazers, as Portland looks to bounce back from a fourth first-round playoff exit in the past five years.
Much uncertainty surrounds the Blazers’ offseason, and while they are filling out key leadership roles with the hiring of Billups and Brooks, the former’s hiring wasn’t without controversy.
Superstar point guard Damian Lillard hasn’t exactly been enthusiastic about Billups’ hiring, which stemmed in part from a sexual assault allegation the coach and former NBA Finals MVP faced from 1997.
Lillard was previously unaware of it after building a friendship with Billups. Portland’s brass shut down a question about the allegation at Billups’ opening presser.
Can Scott Brooks’ hiring keep Damian Lillard with Portland Trail Blazers?
Speculation is swirling that Lillard could request a trade If the Blazers don’t build out their roster well enough this offseason, Dame could definitely be leaving for another team.
But perhaps hiring a credible coach like Brooks to help captain the ship will influence Lillard to stay. After all, Brooks has a solid track record of developing players.
Brooks coached the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA Finals appearance, and led the maligned Washington Wizards franchise to three playoff berths in five years at the helm. In OKC, Brooks consistently had the Thunder ranked in the top 10 in defensive rating, though that success didn’t transfer over to Washington so much.
Lillard’s decision on whether to stick with Portland or not will likely boil down to how well Billups, Brooks and the front office can sell him on the organization’s long-term vision. It’s clear the team needs to make defensive upgrades after ranking 29th in defensive rating in 2020-21. Does that mean sticking with the current core, or swinging a big trade?
The only other premium asset the Blazers could trade other than Lillard is CJ McCollum. That would break up one of the NBA’s elite offensive backcourts, yet it might be a necessary pill to swallow as a means of deepening the roster and upgrading on defense.