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George Karl: Damian Lillard is Portland’s Problem

“What the hell is wrong with this team? My conclusion is that Damian Lillard is getting too much attention.” — Karl

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is not happy with Karl and wants him to stay in his lane, per Trail Blazers digital reporter Casey Holdahl.

Former NBA coach George Karl made a lot of enemies with the recent release of his book, Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection. His last croaking gasp at relevance targeted… well, the title is self-explanatory… but it hasn’t stopped there. The rattling sigh of post-release statements has prolonged his time in the spotlight, one interview at a time. Speaking with David Marchese of New York Magazine, Karl needled in more controversy, with off-hand remarks about Portland Trail Blazers point guard, Damian Lillard:

I’m sure you saw how people already picked up on your calling Carmelo Anthony a “user.” What’s an example of Carmelo’s being a “user”?

I think what I have to say about that is in the book. But here’s what I’ll say now: Melo is a hell of a player, the best offensive player I’ve ever coached. I owe him as much as anyone for my having a great record. But there’s a new generation of players interested in personal branding and gaining money and power off the court, and that’s all new to me. There were too many times with Melo when what was going on off the court was more important than what was happening on the court. It bothered me then and it bothers me now. That kind of thing bothered me just the other night.

What happened?

I was watching the Portland Trailblazers play, and I was trying to figure out, What the hell is wrong with this team? My conclusion is that Damian Lillard is getting too much attention.

What makes you think that?

Who controls the team? The coach and the point guard. And that team is not working. I think their coach, Terry Stotts, is a great coach. So I’m going to say the problem is Lillard. They were a together, connected, committed team last year. This year they’re not. What changed?

In fairness to Karl, I often watch the collective failure of the Trail Blazers’ defense and conclude that if Lillard hadn’t released a rap album, they wouldn’t miss switches in pick-and-roll coverage, so good on Karl for digging in deep and revealing the root cause of Portland’s problems.

While personal branding can be frustrating at times, it seems unlikely that the attention Lillard receives is dissolving this team’s commitment, and it is merely inflammatory to pin Portland’s struggles on his outside pursuits. It also seems awfully hypocritical to chastise “players interested in personal branding and gaining money and power off the court,” after penning a bitter, tell-all exposé, available for $27.99.

Karl’s full interview can be read, here.

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