Clippers counting on Billups’ championship savvy
The concept of playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and working
with old friends Chris Paul and Mo Williams is starting to grow on
Chauncey Billups, who up until now was slow in embracing his new
Billups spoke publicly for the first time since joining the
rebuilt Clippers, who were handling the 14-year veteran with kid
gloves until the initial shock and disappointment wore off
following his sudden departure from the New York Knicks.
”I’ve been through a lot, trust me. It’s been a long year,
man,” the five-time All-Star said Friday at the Clippers’ Playa
Vista training facility. ”But I’m here to do what I do: try to
make this team a better team and win in the process, and just be
the player and person that I’ve been throughout my entire
Billups was one of three players acquired this week in an
unprecedented flurry of roster revamping by the team’s front office
– including the acquisition of Paul in a multiplayer deal with the
New Orleans Hornets, and the signing of well-traveled free agent
Caron Butler, who won a championship last season with the Dallas
The Clippers won a waiver auction to get Billups, who was MVP of
the 2004 NBA finals when the Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers.
”There couldn’t be a classier guy in this business than
Chauncey,” said Neil Olshey, the Clippers’ general manager and
president of basketball operations. ”It hasn’t been the easiest 18
months for him – not in terms of basketball, but in terms of
basically how the process has been for him in different locations.
But he’s the ultimate pro, and he’s been phenomenal through this
The 35-year-old point guard became available when the Knicks
waived him under the NBA’s new amnesty provision – saving
themselves a cool $14.2 million and enabling them to afford free
agent Tyson Chandler and the four-year, $56 million sign-and-trade
contract he inked with Dallas before going to New York in a
three-way trade with Washington last Saturday.
Billups was hoping to clear waivers after the Knicks cut him
loose – which would have made him an unrestricted free agent. He
hinted at retirement if he was taken by a club that didn’t appeal
to him, but according to published reports, he and agent Andy
Miller were warned by the league that he would be in breach of his
contract had he not reported to whichever club picked him up.
”Going through the lockout – and then being waived – was
something I never thought was going to happen in that situation,”
Billups said. ”I had hoped that maybe through that process I could
have controlled my own destiny. But it didn’t happen, and I was
disappointed that it didn’t happen.
”I contemplated retiring, but I’m lucky it was the Clippers
that took me. They’re not the Clippers of old. They want to win and
they want to do it right. I wanted to be in a winning situation,
and I want to go out of this game gracefully – whenever that is.
That’s what I’m all about. I’m all about winning. I’m not thinking
about retiring now. That’s over with. I’m good now. I’m good to go.
I’m a Clipper and I’m happy to be here. It could have been much
Coach Vinny Del Negro acknowledged that convincing Billups the
perennially underachieving Clippers were a great fit for him was
somewhat of a tough sell. But his transition no doubt will be
easier to digest with the addition of Paul, whose arrival already
has enabled the Clippers to sell out their season ticket
”I’m a big Chauncey Billups fan,” Del Negro said. ”I have
tremendous respect for Chauncey. He’s always played the game the
right way. He’s been a winner and he’s been a champion. He’s had to
deal with a lot of things thrown at him in the last year or so,
with different teams and things, and it’s a little unsettling for
him. So I completely understand his feelings.”
Billups, who was selected third overall in the 1997 draft by the
Boston Celtics, will be playing for his ninth NBA club and fourth
in the last five seasons. One of them was the Denver Nuggets, who
dealt him to New York with Carmelo Anthony as part of a three-team,
13-player megatrade with Minnesota in February.
”I had a good time in New York,” Billups said. ”They have a
great fan base there, and playing in the Garden was great. But
other than that, it wasn’t that difficult to leave the Knicks. It
was just the frustrations of being waived. As a player who’s
accomplished the things I’ve accomplished, you never think about
being waived or cut.”
Del Negro will start Billups in the backcourt with Paul and
bring Williams in off the bench.
”I’m a point guard. And in my eyes, we’re probably going to be
starting two point guards – not a point guard and a shooting
guard,” Billups said. ”I’m a lead guard and a playmaker, and so
is Chris. So we’re going to cause a lot of teams a lot of