Billups returns for Clippers against T-Wolves

Chauncey Billups returned to the court for the Los Angeles

Clippers against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night

after being sidelined for more than nine months because of

injury.

”He’s been practicing for about a month,” coach Vinny Del

Negro said about 1 1/2 hours before tipoff. ”He’s been cleared

from his injury for quite a while now, but a few weeks ago he

tweaked his back. So it was more precautionary.

”I’m just proud of Chauncey because I’ve seen him on a daily

basis and how hard he’s worked to get back. So it’s not surprising,

because everyone knows his character,” Del Negro added. ”You saw

the difference he made last year. I mean, we were 15-7 with him out

there. I’m not going to expect him to be back to that level right

away, but it’s nice to start the process.”

Billups played in 20 games last season before he tore his left

Achilles tendon Feb. 6 against Orlando. He averaged 15.0 points,

4.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds while playing 30 minutes a game.

”I have all the confidence in him that he’s going to get back

to playing at a high level again,” Del Negro said. ”He’s not in

game condition right now, and he’s not supposed to be. But I think

he’ll handle the minutes he gets. I just want to work him in. We’ll

monitor his minutes and have consistent dialogue throughout the

game. It’s a process he’s going to have to work through and we will

have to work through as a team.”

Needless to say, Billups’ teammates are excited to have him back

– and in the starting lineup.

”He’s a starter,” Del Negro said. ”So why waste time messing

with the rotation? He and Chris Paul played together in 22 games

last year. Their chemistry and feel for the game is fantastic. But

it’s not going to happen in one day, because he’s been out for a

long time.

”Chauncey is very experienced and he knows the game so well, so

he’ll take the pressure off everybody. He has a great demeanor. He

comes across as a student of the game and a professional, and guys

respect that.”