Blazers Rumors: Could Billups exit Portland amid NBA coaching changes?

Chauncey Billups, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Chauncey Billups, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The end of the regular season is the only beginning of another in the NBA. Some teams prepare for playoff runs while others look ahead to an offseason of questions. One of the hottest topics in the summer rumor mill is always coaching changes, and those rumors are already beginning to swirl.

The first domino has already fallen as Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey is apparently set to leave the bench and move to a front office role.

Multiple signs point toward Toronto’s Nick Nurse moving on from the Raptors, while it appears the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets may be in the market for a new head coach, as well.

At first thought, it would seem that Chauncey Billups’ future in Portland is secure, at least for now. Despite the team’s struggles under Billups, there haven’t been any rumblings among league sources that his job is in jeopardy.

But as the coaching carousel starts to spin, there may be a situation in which the Blazers find a new head coach vaulting to the top of their offseason priority list.

Could Chauncey Billups end up leaving Portland as part of the league’s offseason coaching changes?

Nothing of substance involving Billups and the Blazers has come to light yet, but there are some bread crumbs to follow that point toward at least the possibility of a coaching change in Portland:

First, the Blazers haven’t had success under the 2004 NBA champion. With two games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season, Portland’s record under Billups is 60-102.

In 2021-22, the Blazers finished 27th in points per game and 27th in points allowed per game.

This season has seen an improvement to 19th and 20th, respectively. Still, Portland is 27th in defensive rating in 2022-23 and is the fifth-worst team in the NBA by record and net rating. It’s not all Billups’ fault; it’s hard to build a good defense with two small guards and a slow-footed center.

Second, there’s a strong argument to be made that if Nurse becomes available, the Blazers should pounce.

Nurse has spent the past 10 seasons coaching in Toronto, the last five of which came as the Raptors’ head coach. He won the 2018-19 NBA Championship during his first season at the helm.

He has 226 wins as an NBA head coach and has won 25 of 41 playoff games. To this point, he’s only had one losing season in Toronto (the team is 40-40 as of March 7).

Nurse has used some unconventional schemes and tactics to great success. He deployed a box-and-one defense against Stephen Curry in the 2019 NBA Finals. He broke out a “box-man-to-man” in the playoffs against Joel Embiid last year.

Nurse is not afraid to get creative and make changes on the fly in the middle of games, most of which come on defense, Portland’s most significant bugaboo.

As Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet said during last year’s postseason via Fan Nation, Nurse concocts schemes that simply work:

"I mean, come on, it’s Nicky Nurse, baby. In all seriousness, we’ve shown that we can win in a thousand different ways this year, there’s a lot of different ways to do it and we’ve explored just about all of them, we’ve had ugly wins, we’ve had good wins, we’ve had shootouts, we’ve had slugfests."

Third, there could already be turnover coming for Portland’s coaching staff. According to Yahoo’s Jake Fischer, Blazers assistant Scott Brooks is an option for the Houston Rockets should (after) the organization fires Stephen Silas.

And fourth, as mentioned above, Detroit now has a vacancy for its head coaching position. Fischer wrote in his column, “One note of relevant context: Chauncey Billups, the former Pistons All-Star point guard, was a possible candidate on the radar of Detroit’s front office, sources said, before Billups was hired to lead the Trail Blazers in 2021.”

If we’re playing connect the dots, there isn’t a straight line connecting them in permanent marker; it’s more like a few of the dots are connected in pencil. But those dots are there.

There could be an upgrade on the market by the time teams and coaches really get in the groove of hiring, firing, and resigning, which includes a title-winning coach in Nurse. Billups may lose a member (or more) of his current staff. He could also return to Detroit, where he won a championship and became Mr. Big Shot.

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Maybe Billups leaves, maybe he doesn’t. But the path to a coaching change exists, and there’s plenty of time left to make the switch.