Damian Lillard's concerns about the Trail Blazers' ability to ever field a championship roster were more palpable than ever after another disappointing season. It's those lingering worries combined with criticism at his perceived role in Portland's coaching search, though, that make it more likely than ever Lillard's days in Rip City could actually be numbered.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, local outcries about Lillard's public support for Billups coupled with his team's ingrained status of sub-contention "may" be the push he needs to leave the Blazers.
The enormous backlash from the Portland Trail Blazersprocess to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built have become factors that may push the franchise player — Damian Lillard — out the door, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
On Saturday, Lillard addressed backlash directed at him for Billups reportedly accepting the Blazers' offer to become the team's next head coach.
While he made clear he doesn't support violence against women, Lillard also downplayed the impact his stated preference for Jason Kidd or Billups as Terry Stotts' successor had on Portland's final decision. Further, he claimed ignorance about the 1997 allegations against Billups and Kidd pleading guilty to spousal abuse in 2001, alluding to his age at the time of each incident.
Responding to apologies from the fan he quote-tweeted, Lillard suggested fallout from the outpouring of criticism toward him wouldn't be alleviated by regrets.
Haynes, a personal friend of Lillard's, confirmed the meaning behind that cryptic tweet in his reporting.
Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large due to the tremendous fan base. But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said.
Immediately after Portland parted ways with Stotts on June 4, Lillard went public with his pre-approval of Kidd and Billups taking the reins with the Blazers.
ESPN later reported that Lillard's strong existing relationship with Billups played a major factor in the 2004 NBA Finals MVP being offered the position. Now an assistant with the LA Clippers, Billups was also the long-rumored favorite of president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.
Lillard, identified for his staunch loyalty to Portland almost as much as his historic penchant for crunch-time heroics, expressed frustration with the franchise's direction at multiple points throughout the 2020-21 season. However, he also publicly maintained that his goal is to win a championship with the Blazers and finish his career in Rip City.
The four-year, $176.2 million contract extension Lillard signed with Portland in the summer of 2019 kicks in next season, and contains a player option on its final year.