Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is still very much in charge, despite the swell of finger-pointing that has accompanied team struggles this season. The players reiterated this point to Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest after Friday’s 110-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Hot seat conjecture may rumble from fans, dissatisfied with the team’s apparent underachievement, but Stotts retains the respect and attention of his locker room.
On Friday, after the Blazers’ victory over the Hawks, Lillard said the players all hear criticism of Stotts, and just like in November, he says it is unwarranted. The players, he says, are 100 percent behind Stotts.
“And I think it’s unanimous for a reason,’’ Lillard said. “Like I always say: we play for a great person, and whatever struggles that we have, it’s not his fault. I will tell you that: it’s not his fault.’’
Lillard said he has a relationship with Allen, but the owner has never asked him his thoughts on Stotts or personnel. Lillard also has an open relationship with Neil Olshey, the architect of this roster, that involves input and conversations about the team.
If Olshey approached Lillard and indicated the team was making a coaching change?
“I would want to know why,’’ Lillard said. “Because I honestly don’t feel like he is the issue. As players we have to do things a lot better. I honestly feel like he is one of the better coaches in the league as far as being an offensive coach, but also in giving players an opportunity, and connecting with the players, too. And then we have a great coaching staff. That is not the issue.’’
Damian Lillard speaks for the group, but he does not have to do so. Ed Davis, CJ McCollum, and Meyers Leonard also came to their coach’s defense in Quick’s full article, which can be read here.
The Trail Blazers presently own a 20-18 record and the seventh spot in the Western Conference while exhibiting marked defensive improvement from last season and an atypically disjointed offense. They occupy a precarious position where clicking could mean a seat at the playoff table come April, and stalling places them an eyelash from catastrophe.