Mural of Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard located in SE Portland. You can find many murals similar to this one located all around the city.
Photo by Nick Wozny

Following their first round loss to the Denver Nuggets in late May/early June, the Portland Trail Blazers had arguably the most exciting offseason in the history of the franchise. It was quite the roller coaster of a summer from the small signings of Cody Zeller and Tony Snell, to huge trade rumors including guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The summer also brought the firing of head coach Terry Stotts, leading to the hiring of Chauncey Billups two weeks later. The team entered the draft with zero picks on the board and got a steal at pick forty-three in Greg Brown. Basketball fans all throughout the NBA had their eyes on Portland’s management this offseason, which is something we have never been able to say in the past.

Damian Lillard:

Coming off of a crushing game 6 season ending loss to the Denver Nuggets in which guard Damian Lillard recorded 28 points and 13 assists, the Blazers Organization were left with many questions to be answered heading into the NBA offseason, he biggest of them all being superstar point guard Damian Lillard’s future with the team. Would he come back to Portland? Demand a trade? Or maybe even sit out? After suffering yet another devastating playoff loss in this year’s playoffs, it was clear to fans and players, especially Lillard, that change within the organization was long overdue. During a press conference with team USA media this summer, Lillard said, “Do we really want to win? Is that what we’re shooting for? Then we have to do things to show that. We have to put action behind that.” For months Lillard has made it clear to Portland’s management, specifically general manager Neil Olshey, that the team needs more urgency from them, yet management has continued to deny and ignore it. When asked in an interview with NBC Sports if the Trail Blazers roster is good enough to win the championship, Lillard said, “If you look at our team as it is going into next season, I don’t see how you can say this is a championship team.” 

This is about as up front as Lillard can get with his frustrations with Blazers management. To make it even worse, the organization has continued to disregard Lillard’s comments. 

However, it appears that management has since patched its relationship with Lillard, as he recently posted on his Instagram with the caption “Back for more… #RipCity is my city.”

C.J. McCollum:

Not only was Portland’s best player at risk of being traded elsewhere this offseason, but Portland’s second best player was as well. Shooting guard C.J. McCollum was involved in many major trade rumors over the summer, and for the first time in these two stars’ NBA careers, they were not certain of what their near futures with the team would hold. Sports content creator/co-host of the “Sports World Podcast,” Jet Jackson, shares his thoughts on these potential trades: “I see no world where the Blazers move on from either [Damian Lillard or C.J. MCollum]. Trade rumors are so so common with NBA media and the majority of the time it’s all just noise.”

As of right now, these are all just rumors. However, if the Trail Blazers aren’t where they want to be by this year’s trade deadline, expect this situation to become much more.

Coaching Changes:

Even more drama arrived from the management aspect of the organization with the farewell to head coach Terry Stotts. It was obvious to basketball fans that change at the head coaching spot needed to occur and was arguably long overdue. Following their game 6 season ending loss to Denver, head coach Terry Stotts was fired just one day later after a 9 season span with Portland. Many big names were immediately mentioned for the newly open head coaching job including former NBA star Jason Kidd. Jason Kidd appeared to be the front runner for the job and was preferred by many Blazers players including Damian Lillard. Three weeks after the firing of Terry Stotts, Jason Kidd signed a deal to be the new coach of the Dallas Mavericks. This sent quite a few Portland fans into a frenzy and just days later, the Trail Blazers announced they had hired Chauncey Billups to be their new head coach. Many love the hiring; many despise it. 

“My gut reaction when Portland decided to move on from Coach Stotts was that they were just ready to have a new voice leading things for that team. I think the expectation (in Portland) is that this coaching change will be enough to put them over the top and help them finally reach their goals,” Jet Jackson stated.

Notable Losses:

Although the Blazers did acquire Larry Nance Jr. and extend Norman Powell, there were multiple players that the team had to give up, The biggest being veteran forward and future hall of famer Carmelo Anthony. Although he is in the twilight of his career, Melo is someone you can depend on. He’s an all time great and an excellent teacher to have in your team’s locker room. Anthony agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason in hopes of winning a title with his longtime friend Lebron James. Here is what Jet Jackson had to say about the loss of veteran forward Carmelo Anthony: “I really don’t believe losing Carmelo does all that much going forward for that team in all honesty. Carmelo provides teams with strictly scoring off the bench and I never really thought he was a great fit in Portland to begin with. 

Another loss Portland has dealt with this summer is PF/C Enes Kanter signing with the Boston Celtics. Kanter is coming off of a very solid season with Portland in which he averaged a double double (double digit stats per game in multiple categories). 

“I was a big fan of Enes Kanter last season and I think he did a great job last year. However, I think he is better suited for a team that can involve him more offensively. Jusuf Nurkic is now healthy to begin the season and Cody Zeller is backing him up. I feel that this center duo is perfectly fine and they shouldn’t miss Kanter much at all assuming Nurkic stays healthy,” said Jet Jackson.

Many Blazers fans are hopeful for this new season. How could you not be? For the first time in a long time, possibly forever, this fanbase has no clue what to expect from their favorite team this year. Blazers fans may have no idea what to expect, but we can’t wait to find out.

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