Almost doesn’t count for Becky Hammon, Chauncey Billups or the Trail Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers chose not to hire Becky Hammon as their next head coach. Instead, they hired Chauncey Billups, who was allegedly involved in a rape incident in 1997 and settled the case out of court. The optics are terrible. The Trail Blazers somehow made it worse.

Billups had a chance to explain himself at his introductory press conference on Tuesday, and he said the incident in 1997 shaped the rest of his life “in unbelievable ways.” Any good reporter would have a follow-up, and The Athletic’s Jason Quick asked Billups a simple question: How? How did the incident shape your life?

Trail Blazers PR wasn’t having it and cut the question off.

“We’ve addressed this,” said the team’s spokesperson. “It’s been asked and answered.”

The details surrounding Billups’ alleged gang-rape case are repulsive, so repulsive he should stand there as a man and address every question local and national media has to ask. It was a cringe-worthy moment from a Trail Blazers staff that had already made a questionable hire.

When asked about Hammon, though, there was no interruption.

“We obviously admire Becky. She did a great job,” said Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey, who is a former actor. “Making it as far as the owner in the process isn’t easy. She made it all the way to the ownership level, which is an endorsement.”

The endorsement would have been to hire the first-ever woman NBA head coach, not pat her on the back for a job well done, but not done well enough.

The day before the presser, the Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer wrote the Trail Blazers didn’t like what they heard about Hammon from league sources.

“When Portland reached out to San Antonio figures, the intel was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities,” he wrote. “That sentiment was echoed by sources around the league.”

Hammon’s day will come and eventually a franchise will hire her to lead an NBA team. That day is not today. It’s unclear when it will be.

Jacque Vaughn staying in Brooklyn

Nets lead assistant Jacque Vaughn was in the running to replace Stan Van Gundy as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans but withdrew his name from consideration on Tuesday, according to ESPN. Vaughn cited family reasons and wanting to spend time with his two teenage sons as a primary reason for returning to Brooklyn.

Assistant coaches don’t work in silos, though. They work in tandem with the head coach, travel for road games, game plan and all. And if Vaughn was going to move to New Orleans for the job, it’s fair to assume his family would have, too.

It’s OK, coach. Nobody’s going to fault you for not wanting a lesser situation. But if you wanted to stick around to win a championship ring in Brooklyn, just say that.

Playoff P has arrived

The Paul George slander must come to an end. Playoff P has put the Clippers on his back.

George scored 41 points and only missed five shots in the Clippers’ win-or-go-home victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. He turned in that performance on the road, setting up the Clippers to tie this series at home in Los Angeles to force a decisive Game 7.

George admitted to hearing the criticism and ridicule that ensued after his no-show in the Orlando bubble last season. But what he’s done in these playoffs has been impressive to say the least. No Kawhi Leonard (knee), Serge Ibaka (back) or starting center Ivica Zubac (MCL) for Game 5, yet Playoff P put the team on his back.

George can be an Option A after all. And if Leonard returns for Game 6 or 7, the Clippers may very well be your NBA champions.

Back against the wall

New Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is now 10-2 all time in elimination games. Doc Rivers, on the other hand, boasts just a 6-9 record in Game 7s, as evidenced by his team’s meltdown in the 76ers’ Game 7 loss to Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks in the second round.

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