Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups has been fielding plenty of questions from media and fans alike following his team’s 133-116 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night. Following a blizzard in Portland, the team plane was delayed until game day, with the Blazers arriving in Sacramento, barely getting their feet set, then scheduled to face the Kings. Under those circumstances, All-Star guard Damian Lillard and starting power forward Jerami Grant sat out the game. Combined with injuries to center Jusuf Nurkic and shooting guard Anfernee Simons, plus the recent trade of starting small forward Josh Hart, that left the Blazers fielding second-unit players at tip and dipping into the far reaches of their roster after.
Holding back two key players after a nine-day layoff while playing a fellow Western Conference contender—one that, unlike Portland, is exceeding expectations for the season—has led to the following questions for the 28-31 team:
- What are you doing?
- Really, what are you doing?
- Seriously, what the heck are you doing?
- Are you tanking to try to get Victor Wembanyama?
Today, during media availability, Billups and Lillard addressed these issues.
Media member Sean Highkin cited the team’s principals, indicating that there’s no chance the franchise is headed into tank mode:
Both Chauncey Billups and Damian Lillard made it clear today at practice that resting him and Jerami was a one-time thing because of the flight issues. The idea that they’re going to tank was always ridiculous but there you have it straight from the source.
Portland media personality Danny Marang quoted Lillard addressing the decision to rest him:
“Typically its a battle - it’s a back and forth. Usually they let me have my way, but this time it wasn’t the case.” -Lillard on not playing vs SAC and discussions on when the org is looking to rest him in general
Highkin again underlined that Billups told the media that the tank is off the table, if nothing else because it conjures up unpleasant memories of last year’s 27-55 performance:
Chauncey Billups on not wanting to tank: “What we did last year, we got a great young player out of it in Shaedon, but that shit wasn’t easy. Especially for a first-time coach, coming into games hoping I can keep it within 30. I never want to go through that again.”
The Blazers will have a chance to bounce back on Sunday evening as they welcome the 13-46 Houston Rockets to the Moda Center. Houston currently owns the worst record in the NBA. They’ve amassed a 5-26 road record so far. Portland should have a good chance to set the ship right again, quelling some of the queries.