Billups was acquired off waivers from the New York Knicks on Dec. 12 in a move that surprised the five-time All-Star who is entering his 15th season in the NBA.
“It was tough,” a soft-spoken Billups said. “If you are waived, a lot of times it is because people think you are a distraction or a bad apple. They think you can’t play. Those things have never been said about me, so just going through that, I was struggling with that.”
The 2004 NBA Finals MVP, Billups brings a championship aura to the Clippers and one of the most impressive resumes of any player currently in the league. It is expected that Billups, who averaged 16.8 points and 5.4 assists in 72 games last season with Denver and New York, will slot into the Clippers starting lineup next to Paul in the traditional shooting guard role.
“I’m a Clipper and I’m happy to be here,” Billups said. “This really is a good situation with these guys. I don’t feel like this is a rebuilding situation, these guys are ready to take it to the next level. Hopefully I can help them with that.”
In addition to his reputation as a high-level playmaker and defensive stalwart, Billups enters the 2011-12 season in fifth place on the All-Time NBA career list with 1,735 3-pointers made.
Only Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic have made more shots from long-distance. Together with Paul and veteran Mo Williams, Billups envisions the Clippers giving opposing teams match-up nightmares.
“I am a point guard,” Billups said. “In my eyes, we will be starting two point guards [along with Chris Paul]. I’m a lead guard and a playmaker. I think we are going to cause a lot of teams a lot of problems. We will find a way to make it work with two guards who want to win and who know how to win.”
Billups desire to win, and his ability to pull a team together and into the playoffs is one of the main reasons he decided to put off retirement when he was claimed by the Clippers. Billups had originally stated that he was hoping to be bypassed in the waiver process, which then would have made him a free agent and allowed him to sign with any team.
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Billups is lucky to be able to play with Paul, who he considers a ‘little brother’ and one of the top guards in the league and a kindred spirit who has the unquenchable desire to win at all costs.
“I want to be in a winning situation,” Billups said. “Because that is what I’m about. I’m all about winning, that is what I want to do. I’m not thinking about retirement now. That’s over. I’m only thinking about winning.”
Billups led Detroit to the 2004 NBA title and from 2003-09 made seven straight trips to the NBA Conference Finals. With the high expectations placed on the Clippers now that they have added such high-profile players like Paul, Caron Butler and himself, Billups is ready to show this team how to win.
“There are some guys here that lack experience,” Billups said. “But now there are guys here like Chris [Paul], Mo [Williams], and Caron [Butler] who have been in some battles. We have to bring them along and bring them along fast. People are going to be expecting us to be a good team, and we have to be ready. I don’t think a lot of these guys have been in that situation before. Teams will be waiting on us.”
Billups joins a Clippers team that now boasts a total of five players who have made 13 All-Star appearances. It is a team that has caught the attention of the basketball world, and a team Billups is excited to finally get out on the court with.
“I feel like I have a lot of career left,” Billups said. “I know that these aren’t the Clippers of old. They do want to win and they are doing it right. You can’t beat the city, and Clipper Nation – I know they have a strong fan base. It is a good time to be a Clipper.”
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