The Portland Trail Blazers seem to be the center of attention in the NBA right now, andnot for good reason.
With the firing of General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, people are talking and the rumor mill is swirling.
This morning, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic published a piece outlining what’s been going on in Portland’s front office and focused on how that could essentially impact Damian Lillard.
In an effort to protect the employees who came forward and shared their experiences during the investigation, the Trail Blazers’ front office has not released details of the Olshey investigation’s findings. According to The Athletic, however, some details seem to be coming to the surface despite the team not officially releasing information.
Dozens of coaches, front office members and team staffers were interviewed as part of the probe — Blazers players were given an opportunity to speak with investigators but all of them declined. The firm concluded Olshey often confronted staffers and cursed toward them, sources said. According to individuals with knowledge of the probe, Olshey allegedly made an inappropriate comment toward a female staff member, which was cited during the investigation.
It’s an interesting point to note that all of the players declined to speak to investigators. While that can be taken more than one direction, It seems safe to assume that it’s simply a result of their non-involvement with this particular side of the ex-GM.
The Athletic goes on to talk about what the Blazers went through over the summer with the hiring of head coach, Chauncey Billups, and where Lillard and team appear to be with the rookie coach a third of the way into their season.
But two key concerns of his were not accounted for last offseason: Lillard’s desire for roster changes and for Jason Kidd, then a Lakers assistant and now Dallas Mavericks coach, to be strongly considered for the Portland job opening after Terry Stotts was fired. Olshey instead targeted LA Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups as the new coach and did not make major changes to the roster, believing the current core was built for contention.
In hindsight, the handling of the roster and the head coaching search process that led to Billups’ hire appear to have been miscalculations.
The defensive struggles that led to Stotts’ dismissal have continued; the Blazers rank 30th in defensive rating. And in recent weeks, sources say Lillard has grown frustrated with the team’s play and tension appears to be on the rise between the players and Billups.
While it’s safe to assume that not only Lillard, but the entire Trail Blazers roster of players are frustrated with being ranked dead last defensively, assuming much more about the inner thoughts and overall feelings of the team seems to be delicate. Lillard, who has previously tweeted directly to fans responses on articles about him, took to Twitter again on Monday when fans quoted the same excerpt above from The Athletic.
These mfs love drama too damn much. https://t.co/ej15TkAybZ— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) December 6, 2021
Lillard’s comment on the quote seems to bring doubt to the accuracy of the sources mentioned in The Athletic. Historically, when Lillard wants information about his future or feelings about his current standing to be known, he speaks directly to media. This isn't the first time Lillard has seemed to dispute what “sources” have said about him, and to his credit Lillard has never publicly voiced dissatisfaction with Billups. In fact, back in June, the Athletic reported that Lillard actually liked the idea of Billups as a coach.
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard told The Athletic that he likes Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups as potential replacements for coach Terry Stotts.
The majority of this piece released today by the same publication, however, seems to center around lack of satisfaction and an overall feeling of frustration within the organization, but it also offers a snippet of hope for Trail Blazers fans who have been anxiously waiting and asking for changes to the roster.
If you’ve followed the Trail Blazers during the off season, and leading up the approaching February 10 trade deadline, the idea of a Ben Simmons trade isn’t new. There was reportedly discussions between Portland and Ben Simmons’ current team, the Philadelphia 76ers, outlining a trade involving CJ McCollum and several draft picks and swaps. Reportedly, Olshey turned it down. But with a new acting GM, and this single line from the Athletic about Lillard’s alleged desire to play with Simmons, the rumors and trade machine trades are circulating once again.
Lillard has maintained that he has no plans to leave Portland any time soon, and that his hope is to bring a championship to the small market team. He’s made no indication of asking out before the February 10th trade deadline, and as of July he will also be eligible to sign his two-year supermax extension of $106.6 million.
Dame Time seems to be ticking on the superstar as NBA fans everywhere watch his every move. But for now at least, Dame lives to see another day in Portland.