NBA Rumor: Blazers Coaching Search

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Former FBI investigator retraced Chauncey Billups case

A source says the team commissioned a former FBI investigator to retrace the case. Witnesses were re-interviewed. Tapes of past interviews were watched. Billups, in his interviews with the team, was questioned about the particulars. Olshey, however, told the press conference — which was being broadcast live by a Portland television station — that the details of who did the investigation and what they found was “proprietary” information. “You are just going to have to take us at our word that we hired an experienced firm who ran an investigation that gave us the results that we’ve already discussed.”

He has some intriguing traits. By all accounts, Billups is a leader. And judging from stories from his playing days, he is a motivator. Those two traits happen to be among his predecessor’s biggest weaknesses. Also, Billups won an NBA title in 2004 playing the same position as Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers’ two highest-paid players. Billups says he has “a really good relationship” with Lillard that “goes some years back.” And McCollum told The Athletic that he’s known Billups from working alongside him during cameos at ESPN and already the two have struck up a conversation. “We’ve talked about a lot of stuff, and will continue to,” McCollum said. “From hoop strategy, defending, playoffs, to (Clippers’ coach) Tyronn Lue’s ability to adjust and scheme …”

After years of unwavering loyalty, Lillard has begun acting on his frustration with Portland’s inability to return to the deeper rounds of the playoffs. His on-the-record support for Kidd was something that Blazers officials were not expecting, sources said, until it was published and broadcast on social media. When Lillard’s comments surfaced, several Portland staffers were surprised his public support was not for former Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, whom he previously endorsed for Minnesota’s head job.

Otherwise, it seems Lillard was organically involved in the Blazers’ search, which does not appear to truly have considered the “20-25 candidates” that general manager Neil Olshey asserted it would. From the beginning stages of replacing Terry Stotts, Billups was always a name that Lillard and Olshey aligned on, sources said, and the Clippers assistant has received nothing but rave reviews around the league during his first year on an NBA bench.

Hammon impressed Portland officials and was generally liked among Blazers staffers, sources said. But when Portland reached out for intel from San Antonio figures, the background on Hammon was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities. That sentiment has been echoed by sources around the league. Blazers personnel then cast doubt that Hammon was the candidate to steer the ship through such delicate waters with Lillard.

Although Billups had been vetted several times for high-level NBA leadership jobs, including an offer to become president of basketball operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 and in his current role with the Clippers, the Blazers used much of the search process to revisit the allegations from Billups’ rookie season in the NBA, sources said. Billups encouraged the examination, sources said, and his answers in several conversations with Blazers officials aligned with findings from an independent investigation, sources said. The Blazers ultimately found nothing that they believed disqualified Billups from becoming the franchise’s new head coach.

Blazers owner strongly interested in hiring Becky Hammon as head coach

In Portland, there is a growing belief that Jody Allen, the team’s owner, has a strong interest in Becky Hammon, who has been an assistant coach in San Antonio for seven seasons in her quest to become the first woman to serve as a head coach in any of North America’s four major men’s team sports. Neil Olshey, Portland’s general manager, continues to be relentlessly linked to Chauncey Billups.

On the day USA Basketball released its roster for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the team’s coach, Dawn Staley, answered questions about a potential future job. The South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball head coach, leading Team USA on the Olympic stage for the first time next month, confirmed she has spoken with the Portland Trail Blazers about their head coaching position but didn’t divulge much. “I’ve talked to the Portland Trail Blazers, and that’s the extent of it,” she said Monday. “I’ve talked to them.”
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