PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At 21 wins, year three of the Billups Blazers era was certainly not for the faint of heart.

“It was the toughest one for me, to be honest with you. The first two was tough, but this one was tougher,” said Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups to open his exit interview on Monday.

Chauncey did say though that he felt like his team’s spirit was that of a squad with 50 wins. Matisse Thybulle echoes that sentiment.

“We were chosen by other people to work together, and I think in an environment like that, this has been one of my favorite experiences,” said Thybulle. “I don’t know if it was a conscious effort or just a testament to the people we have on this staff and the players we have, but there was a level of care and understanding of each other as human beings that doesn’t always happen in this line of work.”

Fans hope that will translate on the court soon enough, and the players insisted Monday that they felt like their team was on that track.

“The conversations I’m having with people, the mentality is to win,” said Jabari Walker. “You can just tell when there’s other motives versus someone’s mindset is to win. I can’t guarantee anything, but I’m excited that guys competing with me that want to be here and want to win.”

Winning is key next year for one Billups, who only has one more guaranteed year on his contract. Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin confirmed Monday that Billups will be back for the 2024-2025 season.

“I always feel like you’re trying to prove what you can do and how good of a coach that you can be,” said Billups. “I’ve always felt that way, and I feel no differently going into next year. I’m looking forward to having that opportunity.”

That opportunity will include new faces, as the Blazers have the third-best odds in the NBA to get the #1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Unfortunately, this draft class is widely regarded as one of the weakest in years.

“Maybe we can find an incredible steal or surprise due to the uncertainty and the confusion that can come with not a chalk draft,” said Cronin. “There’s a lot of changes that can happen. It’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for trades, it’s going to open up a lot of opportunity for movement within those pick ranges. For us, we view it as an exciting opportunity.”

Brenna Greene

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