BILLUPS HOPES TO PLAY TWO MORE SEASONS

Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups is never short on confidence.

He has long built a reputation as a clutch shooter, leader and one of the better playoff performers in recent history. It came as no surprise, then, when Billups, 36, proclaimed that after an injury-plagued 2012-13 season he would be back to full strength.

Close?

“I won’t be close,” Billups said a day after the Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs in six games by the Memphis Grizzlies. “I’ll be there next year. I’ve finally got my body back in position where I’ve turned a corner and I feel good. Now, it’s all about me putting in the work and going through it.”

Billups is a free agent and said he wants to play at least two more seasons before moving into a role in a team’s front office.

He is also a year removed from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon. After returning to the Clippers’ lineup on Nov. 28, his body wore down quickly. He battled nagging injuries, including tendinitis in his foot, lower back pain and a strained right groin.

It tested his patience, but was also something his doctors warned him about during his Achilles tendon rehab. The rest of his body was essentially reacting, or overreacting, to the rigors of the NBA season.

During his tenure in Los Angeles, Billups appeared in 28-percent of the team’s regular-season games, by far the lowest two-year stretch of his career. He played in 42 games overall, which would have accounted for his fewest single-season total since 1999 when Billups was a part-time player in his first stint with his hometown Nuggets.

The poise and calm his teammates raved about was stifled by his inability this season to stay on the court. His longest stretch of consecutive games was 16. He never played more than 25 minutes.

“This year was a really, really tough year for me personally,” Billups said after the season. “I’m happy that I got back. I feel good. Ironically, it’s crazy, this is probably right now the best my body has felt since before the injury. That kills me. That sucks.”

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said one of the biggest challenges he faced this season was trying to incorporate Billups into the lineup while managing his minutes and playing time restrictions.

The situation was further complicated by Willie Green’s success. Billups’ stand-in for 60 games finished tenth in the NBA in 3-point percentage and helped the Clippers win five games in a row to close the regular season before Billups returned on Apr. 16. The Clippers had a record of 40-20 with Green as the starter and 16-6 with Billups.

He played all six of the team’s playoff games, but struggled to find a rhythm, shooting 10% below his season average and failing to score in 18 minutes in Game 4, a career first in the postseason.

When Billups talked to the media after his season-ending exit interview Saturday, he was adamant that returning to the Clippers for a third year was important to him. There was a sense that he wanted to finish what he started in January 2012, when the team ran off to a 13-7 start with him alongside Chris Paul, who is also a free agent. That run included an ever so confident game-winning jumper to beat the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.

He tore his Achilles less than a month later in Orlando and even though rehab is long over, he’s been battling back since.

“I know now that I can grind,” Billups said. “I’ll have no limitations, I can go to work at get myself back to where I know where I’ve always been. So, for I’m excited to know that I’m healthy and I’ve gotten through it and I worked really hard to get to this point.

“I can’t wait [for next season].”


Chauncey Billups’ 2012-13 regular season and postseason statistics

 

G

MPG

FG-FGA (%)

3P-3PA (%)

FT-FTA (%)

RPG

APG

PPG

Reg. Season

22

19.0

53-132 (.402)

33-90 (.367)

45-48 (.938)

1.5

2.2

8.4

Postseason

6

19.2

11-36 (.306)

6-17 (.353)

9-11 (.818)

2.0

1.0

6.2