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NBA Notebook

Blazers introduce Billups, ‘stand by’ hire amid criticism

Chauncey Billups (left) was introduced as the new coach of the Trail Blazers, as the franchise was forced to go into damage-control mode over the hiring.Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

The Portland Trail Blazers went into damage-control mode while introducing Chauncey Billups as their new coach Tuesday, amid questions about how they selected him over more experienced candidates and how sexual assault allegations were lodged against him nearly a quarter-century ago.

Billups never faced charges related to those allegations that came out in 1997 and settled out of court with the accuser three years later. He addressed that chapter Tuesday, though when he was asked to elaborate on some of those comments the Trail Blazers refused to let him answer.

Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, said the team hired an independent firm to look into the sexual assault allegations and determined that nothing nonconsensual had occurred.

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“We stand by Chauncey, everyone in the organization, and believe he’s the right choice to be our head coach, and the right choice to be the kind of ambassador in the Portland community everybody here has become accustomed to,” Olshey said.

Billups, a five-time NBA All-Star over a 17-year playing career, has never been a head coach. He has served as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers for the past season.

The 44-year-old Billups spoke broadly about the concerns from the 1997 allegations, saying “there’s not a day that goes by” in which he doesn’t think about the impact any decision can have on someone’s life.

“I learned at a very young age — as a player, and not only a player but a young man, a young adult — that every decision, has consequences,” Billups said. “And that’s led to some really, really healthy, but tough conversations that I’ve had to have with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time in 1997, and my daughters about what actually happened, and about what they may have to read about me in the news and then the media.”

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When a reporter asked Billups to elaborate, a moderator said the question had already been answered and called on another reporter.

The Blazers settled on Billups after an interview process where several people - San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon among them - were talked to about the job. Others known to have been on Portland’s list were Brooklyn assistant Mike D’Antoni and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, who withdrew his name from consideration.

Hawks romp to 110-88 win without Young, Antetokounmpo goes down

The Atlanta Hawks proved they are more than a one-man team, shaking off Trae Young’s absence with a freak injury to even the Eastern Conference finals with a 110-88 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4.

And in another stunning twist to a series no one saw coming, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hobbled off the court with an injured left knee, depriving the Bucks of their best player.

Lou Williams did a stellar job filling in for Young with 21 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic broke a series-long slump with 20, and the Hawks pulled away in the third quarter to tie the series at two wins apiece.

Game 4 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Young was declared out about 45 minutes before tipoff, having sustained a bone bruise when he twisted his right ankle stepping on an official’s foot along the sideline in Game 3. He watched from the bench in a black warmup suit, barely noticeable with a hood over his head and a mask across his face.

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Turns out, he wasn’t needed.

After a dismal first half for Antetokounmpo, who was held to six points and chucked up a pair of airballs from the free-throw line, the Greek Freak came out firing in the third quarter.

He scored eight points in the first 4½ minutes — more than he managed in the entire first half — and sliced Atlanta’s lead to 62-54 with a step-back jumper.

But, the next time down the court, Williams worked a pick-and-roll with Clint Capela, who went up for a dunk that Antetokounmpo tried to contest. The Bucks star landed awkwardly and went down in a heap, grasping at his left knee while a hush fell over the arena.

The entire Milwaukee bench came out to check on Antetokounmpo, who had to be helped to the locker room with what was diagnosed as a hyperextended knee. He returned briefly to the bench but never made it back to the court, heading to the locker room for good when the Hawks blew the game open.

Atlanta outscored the Bucks 25-8 the rest of the quarter to seize a commanding 87-62 lead.

Clippers’ cool-hand Lue is NBA’s best in elimination games

The Los Angeles Clippers have been unflappable amid high stakes throughout these playoffs. They recovered from 0-2 deficits against Dallas and Utah to reach the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

Down 0-2 to the Phoenix Suns, they’ve rallied within a victory of tying the series and forcing Game 7. Much of their resilience can be credited to Tyronn Lue, who is a NBA-best 10-2 in elimination games as a coach.

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Lue has described being in the playoffs as his “happy place” and he thrives on the chess match moves required from game to game.

“Sometimes it’s tough because adjustments mean some guys can’t play, some guys play more, and you’ve got to be able to accept that,” he said. “It means a lot just for those guys to trust me, to understand that whatever I’m doing is the best for the team, not for me.”

Lue lets his players know ahead of time whether they’ll be starting or coming off the bench. He’s quick to hit them up with encouragement via texts and phone calls.

“It’s special, just the relationship I have with T,” Paul George said, “and the relationship T-Lue has with every individual on this team in general. It just says a lot about him.”

Lue has kept calm throughout the postseason frenzy.

“He always has a chill demeanor,” Marcus Morris said. “It’s like having one of my better friends as the head coach. That’s the best thing about him, he’s wide open. He allows you to speak up. That goes a long way with players in this league.”

The Clippers’ season is on the line again Wednesday night at Staples Center against the Suns, who lead the series 3-2. Phoenix is a 1-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

LA is likely to be without two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has been out with a right knee sprain. The team provided no update Tuesday regarding center Ivica Zubac, who sat out Game 5 because of a MCL sprain in his right knee.

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