The Portland Trail Blazers’ offseason has been a rollercoaster. Just one day after it was reported Chauncey Billups was in negotiations to become the next head coach, apparently All-Star PG Damian Lillard is unhappy. We always had a sense Dame may force his way out of Portland, but now Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is reporting that could be the case.
Lillard isn’t happy with coaching decisions and how the Trail Blazers’ front office has failed to construct a title contender throughout his time on the team. Neil Olshey conducted the coaching search and Haynes is reporting none of the candidates were suggestions from Dame, who was rumored to have wanted Jason Kidd as his head coach.
The Trail Blazers were ousted from the 2021 NBA Playoffs in the first round by the hands of the Denver Nuggets in six games. Portland entered the playoffs with plenty of optimism but underperformed yet again, forcing the team to move on from head coach Terry Stotts. Looking back, this would have been the one year you could argue the Blazers would have had a realistic shot at winning it all had they not faltered.
The West lost the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. The No. 1 seed Utah Jazz in the second round. So the path for the Blazers to reach the NBA Finals would have been much easier than previous seasons. The furthest Lillard has gone in the West was the Western Conference Finals back in 2018-19, when the Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors.
While Dame hasn’t reached the NBA Finals, he has had plenty of opportunities in the postseason. Lillard and the Blazers have made the playoffs in 8 of his 9 NBA seasons. The roster was usually not good enough to contend, but you can’t say Dame didn’t have a chance at it.
If Lillard is made available, it would be interesting to see how the Blazers go about moving his contract. Dame is signed on the super max through 2024-25. So that’s four more years at a very hefty cap hit of $43 million next season, $47 million after that, $50 mill and then $54 mill in the final year.