Do the Trail Blazers Have an 'Alpha' Problem?
A loss to the Wizards has ignited discussion about Chauncey Billups and an on-court pecking order that's still a work in progress.
Last night, the Trail Blazers almost came back from down 18 to beat one of the three teams in the NBA with a worse record than theirs.
It came down to the final possession, which would have given them their first lead of the night against Washington. Jerami Grant missed a driving layup attempt on a play Chauncey Billups initially drew up for Anfernee Simons—the same play that had gotten Simons a dunk on the previous possession to cut the Wizards’ lead to one.
Simons had 41 points on the night, 22 of which came in a dominant fourth quarter that powered the comeback. Two nights after he put away a game against the Suns with a big-time late floater, many wondered why he didn’t get the last shot against the Wizards. Was it Grant’s fault for breaking the play? Was it Simons’ fault for deferring? Was it Billups’ fault, like everything usually finds a way to be?
Billups’ line at his postgame press conference about the Blazers not having an “alpha” personality, which predictably has gone semi-viral, wasn’t about that final play. It was in response to a question about how they can get off to faster starts.
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“On the offensive side, you want to start games and get the ball moving,” Billups said. “We don't have an 'alpha'-type dude on our team. It just is what it is. We've got some helluva players, guys that are going to be All-Stars in this league. But right now, we don't have that dude that you can throw it to and he'll get us going for the first four or five minutes of the game. We just don't have that. So we've got to do it collectively.”
It was an answer in line with something else he said following Tuesday’s win over the Suns, after I asked him if he knew why his team consistently came out flat to start games. Because they won the game, that answer got a little less attention and didn’t trigger the online outrage cycle, but it’s a better illustration of the same point.