Damian Lillard has been making major headlines ever since his Portland Trail Blazers were bounced out of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
First, the Blazers star posted a photo on Instagram with a caption that had everyone going nuts. This sparked wild trade rumors of Lillard going everywhere from the Los Angeles Lakers to team up with LeBron James up to being the next savior of the New York Knicks to help Julius Randle.
After those rabid rumors, Lillard then shifted his attention to the Blazers’ coaching vacancy after the departure of Terry Stotts. The six-time All-Star immediately made it known who his preferred choices were: Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups.
Both candidates share several similarities. They were both All-Star point guards just like the Blazers frontman. They both serve as assistant coaches on Los Angeles basketball franchises. They both have a championship pedigree, something Lillard is still dreaming of adding to his resume.
But Billups’ and Kidd’s lesser-known similarity is what has certain Blazers fans expressing a mix of frustration and disappointment at Damian Lillard. Both former NBA stars-turned-coaches had been slapped with assault allegations in the past.
Back in 2001, Kidd was arrested for assaulting his then-wife Joumana Kidd, which the Hall-of-Famer took a plea deal to resolve. Billups had his own name in the headlines as a rookie with the Boston Celtics, when he and teammate Ron Mercer were slapped with rape allegations. A settlement was eventually reached in civil court four years later.
Via Eric Griffith of Willamette Week:
“The hardest part about all of this is that Damian Lillard, an incredibly active and philanthropic member of our community, is the one throwing these names out there,” says Ashtyn Butuso, a longtime Blazers fan and founder of Flagrant magazine, a women-created basketball publication. “Dame is a person too; it’s possible he just doesn’t understand how gruesome the allegations are.”
“[Lillard] has spoken out consistently against injustice. He praises and celebrates the amazing strong women that surround him in his personal life,” said Cassidy Gemmet, a self-described Blazers fan since birth. “With everything that we’ve gotten to know about Damian Lillard as a man over the past nine years, these picks feel against what he stands for.”
Another Blazers fan expressed why it’s extra tough rooting for a coach who holds such level of baggage. The triumphs of the team are shared with every member of the franchise, with the coach playing a very visible role in garnering on-court successes.
“The coach plays a huge part in a fan base. He calls the plays, creates our starting lineup, shares in the success,” said Alexa Cooper, a Portlander who grew up attending Blazers games with her mother. “[Portland fans] care about the players and coaches as humans and it matters to us that they’re not only good at what they do, but that they’re people we’d all want to be friends with outside of basketball. I wouldn’t want to be in the same building as Jason Kidd.”
Jason Kidd has since expressed his reluctance to take the Blazers job entirely, despite lobbying from Damian Lillard himself. Billups, however, still remains a viable candidate. With coaches Becky Hammon and Dawn Staley now emerging as potential candidates for the job, it’ll be interesting to see which direction the franchise turns to once the season rolls around.