The Portland Trail Blazers decided to part ways with head coach Terry Stotts on Friday after they bowed out in the first round of the NBA playoffs on Thursday night, and it would appear that Blazers star Damian Lillard saw the initial reports on which candidates his team would be considering not list Lakers assistant and fellow Oakland native Jason Kidd and said “oh? Bet.”
Within hours, Lillard had went on the record to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports to flex his franchise star muscles, all but demanding the Blazers hire Kidd as their next head coach to fill Stotts’ chair:
“Jason Kidd is the guy I want,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Friday night.
Kidd has also been linked to the open job with the Boston Celtics this week, so Lillard may want to make sure he gets the guy he prefers before he potentially ends up elsewhere.
But why does he want Kidd? Haynes outlined Lillard’s reasoning in his report:
The two have a great relationship that goes back years. Lillard genuinely respects Kidd’s basketball acumen and knowledge of the game and believes he can help take his game and the team to the next level, sources said.
Not long after, Shams Charania and Jason Quick of The Athletic expanded on Lillard’s thinking:
“I like J. Kidd and Chauncey,” Lillard said, referring to Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups.
A source close to Lillard says he prefers Kidd because of his previous head coaching experience in Brooklyn and Milwaukee, and his background as an Oakland point guard. But Portland’s management is intrigued by Billups, the former point guard who was an NBA Finals MVP with Detroit. It is believed the Trail Blazers will ultimately decide between Kidd and Billups.
Lillard and Kidd’s relationship is something we detailed weeks ago when Kidd’s name initially surfaced in a report from The Athletic as a person the Blazers would consider if they moved on from Stotts. Now that they have, it appears Lillard is making his feelings known, and the Lakers could have an open seat on the bench just days after their own season came to an end.
But if that’s how this plays out, no one will be happier to have the problem of filling it than current Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, who at exit interviews on Friday praised Kidd for being “wonderful” to work with over the last two seasons.
“Jason has become one of my closest friends, really a trusted advisor on my coaching staff and someone that has just been integral to our success over the last two years. He should be at the top of everybody’s list that has an opening in the NBA,” Vogel said.
He also thinks his deputy was able to learn things from his time with the Lakers, while helping the team along the way.
“I think him taking the route of wanting to learn the steps of the assistant coaching role after going right from his playing career to a head coaching career and really just rolling his sleeves up and focusing on the work over the last two years has been great for his career,” Vogel said. “He’s carried himself with a great of humility over the last few years, and I really think he’s going to be in a position of strength with the next opportunity that he gets.”
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka also had high praise for the role Kidd has filled on Vogel’s staff.
“There are some names in that room I think that are going to get attention for head coaching jobs around the league,” Pelinka said while praising the entire coaching staff. “A guy like Jason Kidd who has been just outstanding here as a lead assistant, just a 10 out of 10 I think, in all ways.”
For his part, Kidd told “The Undefeated” a few weeks ago that he’s ready for his third head coaching job.
“I hope I’m close. I would love to have another opportunity at it,” Kidd said.
And with Lillard’s endorsement publicly to multiple media outlets, it seems he may get his chance.