Portland, Ore – IN Trail Blazers They didn’t look particularly sharp on Tuesday, and compared to the rest of their bullying run during the first month of the season, they took a 117-110 victory over Saint Anthony It wasn’t their most enthusiastic effort either.
But as so often happens during the Blazers’ unexpected rise to the top of the Western Conference, Tuesday’s win was punctuated by some bold moves and coach Chauncey Billups.
As he has on two other occasions this season, Billups on Tuesday made a quick and decisive call to the sidelined center Joseph Nurkic and pivot to the youngest and most active Drew Eubanks. Stuck in a back-and-forth jitter midway through the fourth quarter, Billups went for what became his specialty — throwing a defensive curveball at an opponent — executing a zone defense that kept San Antonio to four points over the final four minutes.
The Blazers’ 10-4 start was fueled by some impressive physical feats. Straw Grant (29 points against Spurs) He plays like an All-Star. Damien Lillard (22 points, 11 assists on Tuesday) He came back from abdominal surgery better than ever. Anaferni Simmons (Five three-pointers) Blazers shot to wins. and upward Shedon Sharp (13 points) Looks like a steal of the 2022 NBA draft.
But it was Pelops’ mind that added purpose and focus to those skills.
“I think it’s been great,” Lillard said when asked about Billups’ officiating this season. “In this league, if you give someone a lot of the same look, they’ll pick you away. I think that was in our favour. We got small, we played in the penalty area, we played the full field, we were in a full court area, we surrounded…we mixed up.” It’s so much that it’s unpredictable.”
Jerami Grant has been a game-changer for the Trail Blazers, just as Damian Lillard envisioned it
Tuesday was also another example of Billups holding sharp and effective halftime talking. Billups says he’s not adept at making speeches, but he’s determined to tackle first-half issues right away. On Tuesday, with the Blazers’ juniors playing flat and the team as a whole playing sloppy, players say Billups was sharp on his tongue and clear on his message.
Simmons said Billups aired some videos from the first half that highlighted the ways the Blazers weren’t connecting. Then he pointed out the plays when they weren’t physical enough.
“He was like, ‘This game is going to go one of two ways…'” Simmons said. He ended by saying, “We have to go back to being us.”
“I like that he gets straight to the point,” Lillard said. “It never feels so apocalyptic, but it never feels like, ‘Well, we didn’t do a great job, but that’s fine. next one “.
Billups says there have been other halftime speeches this season—one came to him last week in Miami—but he says his halftime talks aren’t designed to motivate so much as they are to educate. And a great teaching tool, he found, is to hold the players accountable, or as he likes to say “put a title on it.”
“I’m not a big speech guy, but I’ll tell you what happens,” said Billups. “There have been a few times in the first half where you have to put a headline on that. If there are two or three guys who haven’t done the job, I’m not the coach who says ‘we need to do a better job with the closers’… No, I say (Names)…I put a headline on it. It goes a long way with guys. I’m not a blanket guy—everyone sees it, so I’m not going to come in and put a blanket on it. I’m going to say this is you, and you, and you.”
If there are two pillars underpinning Billups’ early coaching career, it’s his ability to relate to players and the similarity in how he coaches two-way players. That’s what he got from Larry Brown, who coached him for the title in Detroit. And coincidentally, the Browns were close to Tuesday’s head coach, Gregg Popovich.
“They train everyone the same way,” Billups said. “No matter if it’s your best player or a two-way player. They hire me to coach, and that means everyone. I know most people don’t have the guts to do it, but I do, and that’s because I’ve always appreciated a coach being honest with me. That got me.” My best. I won the championship this way.”
So far, in his one-plus season in Portland, Billups has received mostly good reception. There were some grumbles from players last season about his bluntness, and from Billups there were some grumbles about the toughness and intelligence of the players. But those players either left or were traded. The new roster not only accepts his training, but demands his toughness.
“It’s there 24/7… 24/7,” Simmons said. “And I told him, That’s all I want. I won’t be swayed by criticism.”
“There’s a lot of times when I’m sure they don’t like it. I didn’t like it. I’ve lost a lot of sleep with Coach Brown. But what they know is I care, and it’s all about us, the team, and we get better. They know when they’re their best,” Billups said. They have, they’ll get paid. So at the end of the day, it’s good for everyone. It’s not disrespectful in any way, it’s emotional. And I think they know that, and that’s why I think they know, ‘I have to take that… It’s coming from the right place’ .”
That’s why decisions like the one he made on Monday — 6-foot-9 Eubanks played a season-high 33 minutes while rookie Nurkish only played 15 — have been so well received by the locker room. One of Billups’ biggest supporters, Nurkić turned into the team’s biggest fan when Billups sidelined him to face different lineups. On Tuesday, Eubank scored nine points, grabbed seven rebounds and put the Blazers ahead for good with one basket with 3:57 left.
“She’s one of those people who can feel things,” Billups said. “Your light is off to such a rocky start… and it’s never been anything personal. But I’m going to do what’s best for the team for the time being. And Drew on both ends of the earth has given us some great, great moments. His speed to the screens puts teams at a disadvantage.. Everything he did was great tonight, and it’s been all year, in fact.”
It was difficult to say exactly what kind of coach Billups was after his rookie campaign last season. Lillard underwent season-ending surgery in January. Three starters were traded in February. The team president resigned in November and the general manager was fired in December. The Blazers have lost 21 of their 23 games losing mostly to youngsters and G League players.
But Simons said he was seeing in those final months that Billups had something special. He thought he was a player, seeing the game from the sidelines like a player. Simmons said he knew that once he gave Billups some talent and experience, the team would thrive. One of the reasons he trusted Billups was shown on Tuesday. He ran a play that was successful, said Simmons, and before the play could be called again, Billups coached him to prepare for a tackle the Spurs might run to prevent the same play from working. The Spurs did exactly what Billups expected.
“He knew they were going to turn it around, and he told me it would happen before it happened,” Simmons said. “It looks like he’s still playing.”
And like any gamer, Billups is still going through the game movie to set up his night. Just as he was a storied player for 17 years, playing with the strength of knowing he put his work into the gym, Billups today engenders coaching confidence from his film studies.
“I don’t have the most experience, so I have to make up for it in some way,” said Billups. “Work. It should be put into… studying situations, knowing my guys and other teams.”
It also means learning from mistakes. Last week, during a 117-112 loss in Dallas, Billups decided he was taking too long to make an adjustment to double-teaming. Mavericks Superstar Luka Donjic. He ordered a defense that would fake a double team, but it backfired as he walked away Spencer Dinwiddie Open to 3 indicators. He was reluctant to do a full double team because the schedule didn’t allow the team to practice in 13 days, and they didn’t yet have to adjust how they rotate when they doubled up.
“I beat myself up every night after games when I come home and watch them again, wondering what I could have done better,” said Billups. “Could I have made an adjustment earlier? Could I have replaced a little earlier? Should I have taken the time-out… But I also say, ‘I did it there.'”
About 36 hours after the Dallas loss, Billups returned to the lab, whistle in his mouth and players in front of him on the training ground. Did he make it to double-team coverage in a full rotation?
“Of course,” said Pelops with a smile.
(Photo by Chauncey Billups and Damian Lillard: Alika Jenner/Getty Images)