CHAUNCEY BILLUPS TO RETURN WEDNESDAY NIGHT
Less than 10 months after tearing his left Achilles tendon, Chauncey Billups is poised to make his 2012-13 debut with the Clippers Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 2004 Finals MVP may start at guard alongside Chris Paul. Willie Green has started the previous 14 games at shooting guard.
“We are all excited to have Chauncey back,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I know how hard he has worked to get to this point and we are looking forward to incorporating him into the lineup.”
It became apparent Billups might return to the Clippers’ lineup far sooner than expected when he ran full speed in a 5-on-5 scrimmage at practice Tuesday afternoon.
He made brisk cuts, moved laterally without hesitation and sprinted the floor. There was still no official timeline or precise date, but he appeared ready. And as it turns out, he was.
Asked how Billups looked after practice Tuesday, small forward Caron Butler said, “He looks great. I don’t have any filter. I’m so honest and sincere with people when they’re coming back from injury, I’ll tell them, ‘You look a step slow still.’ And he looks great.”
Billups played 20 games with the Clippers last season after the team claimed him off waivers from the New York Knicks in December. The backcourt duo of Paul, who has often referred to Billups as a big brother, and Billups provided instant credibility on and off the court for the then new-look Clippers. The team went 14-6 in games Billups started, including a last second victory over the Mavericks where Billups drilled a game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing with 1.0 second remaining.
Less than a month later, on Feb. 6, he tore his Achilles in the fourth quarter of a win at Orlando when he pivoted to chase down a long offensive rebound. He underwent surgery nine days later in his home state of Colorado and remained there for the early stages of his rehabilitation.
Immediately following the injury questions surfaced about if Billups would play again, but for the 36-year-old, five-time All-Star it was more a matter when. When he re-signed with the Clippers this summer as an unrestricted free agent, the prognosis set his return date optimistically as sometime between January and February, 2013. He insisted it would be sooner, even at one point suggesting he would be ready for opening night, and as his rehab progressed, the prospective date inched ahead.
During that time Del Negro maintained two consistent stances: whenever Billups returned he would start in the backcourt and “I'm not sure when he'll be back. It's kind of his call when he feels comfortable."
Billups, who has been practicing in a full-contact capacity for several weeks, apparently, has reached that level of comfort. It’s a welcome sight for Butler and the Clippers, saddled with a four-game losing streak.
“You have a Hall of Fame point guard out there [in Paul] and then when you’ve got two of them out there, that’s special,” Butler said. “They can direct traffic and get guys in position and take the pressure off a lot of people. That’s what [Billups] brings, having two coaches on the floor plus the coach on the sideline. That’s the type of comfort level you can go out there with.”