Chauncey Billups Believes in Reconciliation Between Damian Lillard and Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers head coach sees a future where wounds can heal
DETROIT — Chauncey Billups, the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, envisions a day when a reconciliation takes place between Damian Lillard and the franchise. Despite the acrimonious divorce that occurred this summer, Billups remains hopeful for a resolution.
Lillard’s trade request and subsequent move to the Milwaukee Bucks left a bitter taste in the mouths of both parties involved. After over a decade of representing the Trail Blazers and achieving All-NBA and Top 75 player status, the separation was a disappointing end to a remarkable era.
As the all-time franchise leader in several categories, including scoring and points per game, Lillard’s impact on the organization cannot be understated. Billups recognizes this and believes that talks will eventually happen, allowing emotions to subside and healing to occur.
“What Dame did for the organization has never been done before. He’s going to go down as the greatest,” Billups expressed to Yahoo Sports. “And what this organization did for Dame was incredible. They had an incredible two-way relationship throughout his tenure.”
Billups brings a unique perspective to the situation, having experienced multiple trades himself during his playing career. He understands the challenges of establishing oneself in the league, leading a franchise, and even being part of a trade request, as he was when Carmelo Anthony requested a trade from Denver in 2011.
Although initially considered more suited for a front-office role, Billups embraced the opportunity to become a head coach. While he left the trade talks to general manager Joe Cronin, Billups maintained a close enough distance to trust the front office’s decision-making process.
Even before becoming Lillard’s coach, Billups and Lillard shared a close relationship. Their bond strengthened during their time together in Portland, and it has remained strong despite the recent turmoil within the franchise.
“We’ve had several conversations, even when the trade request first surfaced,” Billups revealed. “I knew that regardless of how this played out, it wouldn’t change our friendship. We discuss personal matters and basketball. We’ve continued to communicate since it all ended. I’m genuinely happy for him.”
Lillard has found his footing with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 24.3 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.4 rebounds. Billups, having witnessed player-team divorces affect personal relationships in his playing days, is determined to ensure that this is not the case for Lillard and the Trail Blazers.
The emotional rollercoaster surrounding Lillard’s desired destination, particularly the Miami Heat, was intense. However, the Bucks swooped in at the last moment, finalizing the deal just days before training camp began.
“We all felt it on a daily basis. It was constantly in the news,” Billups admitted. “You can’t escape it or ignore it. You give it the attention it deserves, knowing that there’s little you can do to influence the outcome, and you move forward.”
Billups firmly believes that one day, Lillard will be welcomed back with open arms by the franchise and its fans. He has witnessed and been a part of similar reconciliations throughout his career, giving him hope for a positive resolution in this situation as well.