Lillard, Blazers moving in different direction with coaching change

Published June 6, 2021, 8:30 AMRenee Ticzon

The Portland Trail Blazers have begun making changes after another first-round exit from the playoffs.

The Portland Trail Blazers put up a valiant effort in their hard-fought series against the Denver Nuggets. Despite their season ending in the first round, there are a lot of things the Trail Blazers can continue to build on -- and it starts with Dame Time.

Portland wouldn’t even be in the playoffs if it weren’t for Damian Lillard. The team suffered a tremendous amount of injuries this season, sidelining so many of their players for a very, very long time. However, Lillard made it his mission to keep the Trail Blazers afloat while most of his starters were gone.

More than keeping afloat, the Blazers overachieved.

While critics expected Portland to go down after the injuries to Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic, and CJ McCollum, Lillard did enough during the regular season to safely land them a spot in the playoffs.

When it’s crunch time, there’s arguably no other person in the NBA who can perform better than Lillard. He has always been one to thrive under pressure, and his historic Game 5 against the Nuggets is a testament to his greatness.

His teammates have shown their ability to compete at an extremely high level, but to take it to the next step, Lillard and the Trail Blazers may have to make some important moves.

The Portland franchise announced on Saturday that their head coach Terry Stotts will no longer return next season. Both parties agreed to part ways mutually, leaving the top coaching position vacant.

Stotts, who brought the Blazers to the playoffs eight times in the nine seasons he’s been with them, is the franchise’s fourth winningest coach with a record of 402-318 (.558).

“I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons,” said President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.  “This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it’s in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction. Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism, and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish him and Jan nothing but the best.”

It is certainly too early to tell what kind of coach the Blazers are looking for, and all the more who that coach will be. Lillard told Yahoo Sports that Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd is “the guy I want.”

The fact that the franchise is making a coaching change means the Blazers want to move in the right direction, especially if they don’t want to waste Lillard in his prime.