LOS ANGELES–“Suit it and boot it, baby” were the first words Chauncey Billups said before answering questions at Saturday’s press conference prior to the Clippers game at Staples Center against the Rockets.
Billups sat at the podium in front of the Los Angeles media for the first time since tearing his left Achilles tendon on Feb. 6 against the Orlando Magic. He was wearing a blue suit, white striped shirt, and large white walking boot on his foot.
“I’m just happy to kind of be back in the loop,” Billups said. “It’s definitely bittersweet because I would just like to be walking in [the locker room] putting my jersey on, of course, going out there and fighting with the guys. Obviously, I can’t do that. On the flip side, it’s really good to see the guys, to see them in there, smiling, just as happy to see me as I am to see them.”
Billups, 35, started rehabbing this week. He begins each day with exercises at home then attends a local rehabilitation facility around noon, working on breaking down some of the scar tissue and range of motion in his Achilles.
“I’m in there two hours, not a fun two hours as you can imagine,” Billups said. “I do my exercise again at home in the evening.”
He watched Saturday’s game from the sideline, but won’t travel with the team for the time being to avoid missing any rehab, which usually occurs Monday through Friday. Still, Billups said he plans to do everything he can to help out.
“Now that I can be here, and out on the bench, and be at practices, and film session and things like that I think that I can help with some of the stuff,” he said. “Obviously, not as much as if I was out there, but I think that I can have a pretty good influence on how we move forward from here.”
“I’m back. I’m back with the guys and will definitely help in any way I can.”
He seemed in good spirits despite the grueling rehab, but said among others things that he felt bad about not getting to play with former Nuggets teammate Kenyon Martin. Billups was a major influence in Martin’s decision to sign with the Clippers after being bought out by the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association in February.
Since Billups’ injury and Martin’s arrival, the team is 9-11 and mired in a stretch of three home losses in their last four.
“I think there are some games that I kind of look and say, ‘Man, we’re playing kind of selfish defensively and offensively and we had gotten away from that early in the season,” Billups said. “I think that guys are just trying to figure it out again. That’s why you kind of see the inconsistencies. We play against a really good team, most of the times we come out and fight hard and a lot of the time, are in a position to win it. Then when we play teams that we should really beat, I think sometimes we let our guard down and I feel like we can get away from our principles.”
“I still feel like this team can contend. I really do,” he added. “I think more than anything it’s just a mind set. It’s the mentality that I think has to be tweaked a little to back how it was as the start of the season. We have time to do that and I think when that mentality is tweaked to get back to be where we need to be, we’re right there.”