Terry Stotts is out as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, a good coach but it was clearly time for a new voice in the Pacific Northwest.
Damian Lillard wanted that voice to be Jason Kidd, but Kidd didn’t want that. Since that moment, Chauncey Billups has had the buzz around the league behind him as the guy at the front of the line in Portland.
What about Mike D’Antoni? The coach who helped change how the NBA game is played wants the Trail Blazers job, reports Sam Amick at The Athletic.
A source with knowledge of D’Antoni’s situation said he has serious interest in the Portland position, though it remains to be seen if it will be reciprocated.
Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey threw Stotts under the bus in his postseason press conference, saying that the 29th-ranked Portland defense was not a matter of players on the roster. (Um… this is a team that gave big minutes to Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter this season, outside of having an undersized and offensively focused trio of Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norman Powell starting playoff games, so yes, it is about the roster to a degree.)
Olshey talked about hiring a defense-first coach, and that is certainly not D’Antoni.
However, if the Trail Blazers are going to largely run back the same roster next season (just with a healthier Jusuf Nurkic at center), picking up a coach that can juice the offense and get more on that end of the court might be the better call. Without some serious personnel shifts, the Trail Blazers are not going to be a great defensive team. However, D’Antoni may be able to take the offense to the next level, and that could win Portland more games, regular season and playoffs.
Whoever gets hired as the new Portland coach steps into a lot of pressure — win now or Lillard could push his way out of town to another contender. Priority No. 1 in Portland is keeping arguably the greatest Blazers player happy and not looking to bolt. D’Antoni unleashing the potential of Lillard the way he did Stev Nash and James Harden before him could be enticing.
It’s something Olshey and the Trail Blazers need to consider. They have some time, D’Antoni is busy right now as Nash’s assistant in Brooklyn, and it looks like he will be busy with that team until the Finals end in mid-July.