Chauncey Billups

PHOENIX – Chauncey Billups is inching closer to a return.

Billups has missed all but three games this season and has not played since being diagnosed with peroneal tendinitis in his left foot following a Dec. 3 win at Utah. But according to Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, the former Finals MVP played 3-on-3 Thursday prior to the Clippers’ game with the Phoenix Suns.  

“Chauncey went up and down [Thursday] with some contact so that was good to see,” Del Negro said.

Billups, who made his season debut Nov. 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves after missing the first month of the season recovering from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon, sounded optimistic about the workout.  

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’m getting better all the time and trying to keep progressing from this point forward. I’m back on the court now just kind of working out, working myself back. It feels good to be out there sweating with a basketball in my hand.”

Both Del Negro and Billups, though, reiterated Thursday that there is no timetable for when the 36-year-old guard may return.

“I don’t really have a timetable,” Billups said. “I’m just kind of playing it by ear and trying to keep getting better.

“It’s feeling better all the time. Obviously, I’m not ready to get out there and compete 5-on-5 in a real game yet, but it’s encouraging.”

In two seasons with the Clippers, Billups has missed 87 of a possible 110 games, mostly due to the torn Achilles he suffered on Feb. 6, 2012 in Orlando. Still, he is considered a vital part of the Clippers’ bid for their first-ever NBA championship.

“I think for us, everything is big picture,” said Billups, who has played in two NBA Finals with the Detroit Pistons, winning his only championship in 2004. “It’s about getting better and trying to be playing our best basketball in April going into the playoffs. Everything else is just preliminary.”

Billups added that despite the team’s recent three-game swoon, he does not intend to rush his way back and jeopardize getting re-injured.

“I want to get right, no matter how the team is doing. I feel like we established ourselves as one of the elite teams and when we’re healthy, we can play and beat anybody. I want to be able to come back and be able to help that.”