There is no doubt that there are high expectations for the new head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Chauncey Billups. In an offseason that was largely unremarkable, it will fall on the novice coach to run it back with a roster that barely changed. According to Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian, one big change Billups will endeavor to make is emphasizing defense, something the team has struggled with in recent seasons. To Billups, defense will relieve some of the weight on star Damian Lillard to win games.
“He’s going to have some of those nights where he has it going,” Billups said. “We’ve got to ride it. But that can’t be where our season lives or dies. It’s just too hard. It’s too much pressure on Dame. It’s too much pressure on dudes to play that way. We’ve got to be better.”
To Billups, defense is one of the things that can take the Blazers further than they have in in past years.
“To go to the next level, and be more competitive, and be more consistent, we got to be so much better defensively,” he said. “I know that. It’s not going to be optional to play hard defensively.”
Billups wants the players to commit to defense in order to win.
“To me, I just think that if we really want to win, we’re talking about all the players, and everybody, wants to win and wants to buy in and this and that, well that’s the first way that we could do it,” Billups said. “And it starts with talking about it, but your actions are going to be what actually speaks the loudest. And so, we’re going to find out who wants to win, in my opinion, by their level of engagement on defense.”
Billups acknowledged that in the past, the team has struggled with foul trouble, which puts more pressure on CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard to perform.
“It’s one of those things that they had to be so special offensively, that if they are out there scrapping hard defensively and picking up fouls, that hurts the team,” Billups said. “Last year, the bench was an issue. You can’t win a game with those dudes in foul trouble.”
“I’ve seen games where Dame has really taken the challenge defensively and really be able to lock in,” Billups said. “So, he’s capable. Not only is he capable, but he’s willing to. However, we have to do a good job as a coaching staff of making sure that those guys are confident enough to know that, ‘OK, I maybe won’t have to do so much offensively, so I can give more defensively.’”
Billups expects to see more help defense.
“We’re going to be a help defensive team,” Billups said. “Nobody is on an island. Everybody’s helping each other. That’s the mentality we’ve got to have, and if we do, we’re going to be a pretty darn good team.”
After all, Billups knows what he is doing here: he strategized the defense when the Los Angeles Clippers faced the Blazers.
“Our biggest thing was we’re going to trap Dame every single time they come off of pick and rolls, maybe CJ too, and then we’re going to see what else they can do,” Billups said.
As for the three-guard lineup, Billups says that if it is going to succeed, McCollum, Lillard, and Norman Powell need to figure it out on defense.
“I think in today’s game, you can play that way,” Billups said. “But to me, if you’re going to win that way, all three of those guys have to be committed on the defensive end of the floor. That can be an issue. It’s already been an issue.”
You can read Fentress’s entire piece here (possible paywall).