Do not try blaming head coach Terry Stotts for the Portland Trail Blazers’ unimpressive 9-7 start. Damian Lillard isn’t having it.
Some fans tried to do as much within the comments section of an Instagram post promoting the team’s Saturday night date with the Sacramento Kings, which ended up being another notch in the win column. Upon seeing the sentiments expressed by disgruntled supporters, Lillard took to action, as unearthed and outlined by the Oregonian‘s Mike Richman:
“Everybody that has somethin (sic) to say about coach Stotts doesn’t know a damn thing about what it takes to win a close game,” Lillard wrote. “Players have to play and get the job done. Our coaches put us in position to do what we need to do and we just got to get it done. We’re 8-7 and should prob (sic) be 12-3 or 11-4 but all things considered we will find it and as always get it done. Smh [shaking my head].”
Lillard, whose fierce loyalty has defined his basketball journey, continued his defense of Stotts in a follow up comment on the same post, accepting the blame for the Blazers’ rocky first 15 games.
“Late game turnovers and not getting stops has nothing to do with a coach,” Lillard wrote. “Blame me then. This the NBA … we play 82 games and we’ve played 15 and won more than we’ve lost. Relax family.”
Plenty of people throughout NBA circles have mixed feelings about Stotts—and even general manager Neil Olshey. Regardless of where the organization is at, though, Lillard’s response here registers as overwhelmingly ideal. You want your franchise superstar sticking up for the coach and his teammates. You want him preaching a sense of calm when things aren’t going totally according to plan. You just want him believing in what you’re trying to build.
And Lillard, by all appearances, is sold on what the Blazers are doing. At the very least, he isn’t ready to turn on anyone less than 20 games into the season. Plus, as he points out, the situation is hardly dire. The Blazers are 9-7, with the second best defense in the NBA. If they figure out how to boost their 18th-place offense—which would start with committing fewer turnovers and, perhaps, playing a tad faster—they’ll be an under-the-radar force to be reckoned with.