Report: Chauncey Billups was fine leading Cavs without LeBron James because he and Tyronn Lue wanted to win from scratch

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Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

One NBA insider is indicating that when Chauncey Billups was under consideration to take over the Cleveland Cavaliers, he had no fears about rebuilding without having LeBron James on the roster.

Brian Windhorst spoke with former Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry about team development and noted (at the 12:00 mark) how Billups was prepared to embrace that role with the Cavaliers.

“I remember talking to Chauncey Billups about this when Chauncey was considering taking the Cavs president’s job, and he ended up not taking it,” Windhorst said. “I said, ‘Well, you know Chauncey, I think LeBron is gonna leave in a year.’ He was talking to me about whether he was gonna take the job, and he goes, ‘That’s okay because Ty (Tyronn Lue) and I have always talked about wanting to win a title, building it from scratch.'”

That conversation between Windhorst and Billups took place in 2017, when the Cavaliers were searching for someone to replace David Griffin in running the team. Though Billups was reportedly offered a five-year contract by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, the apparent low-ball contract offer was given as one reason why he rejected the offer.

Windhorst was prescient in looking ahead one year as James left in 2018 to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. By that time, Gilbert had promoted Koby Altman to run the team.

Altman’s rebuilding efforts got off to a bumpy start early in the 2018-19 season when Lue was dismissed after the Cavaliers dropped their first six games. Lue spent the following season as an assistant to Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers before taking over the top job in 2020.

At the time of Billups’ brief flirtation with the Cavaliers, he was serving as an ESPN analyst. In 2021, he accepted the head coaching position of the rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers, who have compiled a 60-104 record during his two seasons with the team.

Though Billups was reportedly eager to begin rebuilding with the Cavaliers, his time with the Trail Blazers has shown that the process can be painful. In March of this year, questions about his possible dismissal surfaced before being quickly shut down.

Building from the ground up has paid off for teams like the Bucks and Denver Nuggets. However, it demands plenty of patience and the stomach to deal with long stretches of losing.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.