What is arguably Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups’ greatest strength as a coach doubles as an area where he admits he can improve. It stems from his experience.
Billups has was there He was a highly sought after draft prospect, á la Shaedon Sharpe. He was a journeyman who was on four different teams from 1997-2000, not unlike Justise Winslow’s journey the last few years. He was the star, surpassing what even Damian Lillard accomplished in winning the 2004 Finals MVP.
“You get more experience at each step, which allows you to talk about more things. I know for me as a coach now, with my best player in Dame or that could be our pick in Shaeden Sharpe, I’ve been through everything these guys have been through and I’ve been through a lot more than they’ve yet to come let’s see,” Billups said. “It allows me to really connect and connect with every step of their process.”
But, like many athletes who rise to stardom, there is a learning curve with the transition to coaching: remember that the areas that have become instinctive to him are not instinctive in many of these young athletes.
He noticed that last year, his first with the Blazers, and said he’s getting stronger as he coach of the Basketball Without Borders camp in Africa this week.
“You just can’t think they know it. You have to slow it down and you have to explain it and you have to demonstrate,” Billups said. “You can’t just think they understand what even simple things are.”
Sixty boys and girls basketball players from across Africa joined the BWB camp in Cairo, Egypt from Sunday to Wednesday to learn from people in and around the NBA, including Billups, Steve Kerr, Willie Green, Udoka Azubuike, Mo Bamba, Malcolm Brogdon, Grant Williams and Dikembe Mutombo.
The 18-and-under players went through on-court training, measurements and life and leadership development. NBA coaches and players also participated in a clinic with 100 junior NBA members in collaboration with Special Olympics.
Billups said he sees potential and excitement in the athletes, which reflects the NBA’s expansion internationally. Greater access to resources and training has expanded the pipeline not only in Africa but around the world. There have been BWB camps in 30 countries since its launch in 2001, and there were 41 former BWB campers and 121 international players on rosters to open the 2021-22 NBA season.
“The athleticism, the skill with some of these kids that I’m watching right now, all I can do is think, ‘Man, what’s this kid going to look like in four or five years, this kid, you’re going to be amazing,'” Billups said .
While athletes learn from Billups, NBA coaches also learn from their experiences there. It’s a lesson he can take back as he enters his second season in charge of Portland.
“Sometimes you forget the little things because you don’t worry about it anymore. It just comes so instinctively,” Billups said. “It’s hard, but it’s like one of those things like riding a bike. Even if you get up there and your first couple moves, you’re like, ‘Man, what’s going on,’ then, like boom, all of a sudden you’re traveling.”