Billups stays cool during good times and bad
Young Nuggets teammates follow lead of veteran point guard
Chauncey Billups has the mentality of a late-inning relief pitcher.
Experience has taught the 34-year-old Nuggets point guard that no matter how bad things go one game, the opportunity for redemption is usually only a day or two away.
That’s why Billups couldn’t help but smile at times this season when his younger teammates Arron Afflalo, Gary Forbes and Ty Lawson beat themselves up after poor performances.
Over the course of 82 games, it’s bound to happen.
“They all had a bad game and they were like, ‘I can’t believe it, I’m terrible,’ ” Billups recalled. “I was like, ‘Are y’all serious?’ I didn’t make a shot for a month straight. You never heard me say one thing. Bring on the next one.”
“I don’t overreact to (slumps). I act the same way whether I’m playing good and shooting good or shooting bad. I never change.”
After struggling to find his rhythm and shooting touch early in the season, Smooth is in a groove.
Billups was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 25.3 points and 6.3 assists while leading Denver to a 3-0 record from Dec. 27-Jan. 2.
“I think he deserved it,” Nuggets coach George Karl. “Statistically he was off the charts in his shooting. Anytime you get that award, it makes you feel good.”
A few hours after the NBA announced the honor, Billups ran into foul trouble against the Houston Rockets but still managed to scored 13 points and record three steals in a 113-106 victory at the Pepsi Center.
“I feel like all the accolades and all the accomplishments I’ve been able to get in my career are based on winning,” Billups said. “That’s no different with this weekly award.”
Fittingly, Arron Afflalo bounced back from a scoreless performance Saturday with a strong two-way effort against the Rockets.
He helped limit Houston’s leading scorer Kevin Martin to eight points on 3-of-15 shooting and scored 13 of his 15 points in second half. No shot was bigger than Afflalo’s turnaround jumper at the end of the shot clock to give Denver a seven-point lead with 1:21 to play.
Afterward, he remembered Billups’ words of wisdom.
“He’s been through so much. He understands the law of averages and the belief in your talent at this level,” Afflalo said. “You’re going to have your up days; you’re going to have your down days. The key thing is just to understand it’s a marathon for your team and for you individually.”
Now in his 14th season, Billups understands that as well as anyone in the NBA.
After shooting .351 from the field – including .337 from three-point range – in his first 22 games, Billups has posted numbers straight out of a video game over the past seven games: .590 (46 of 78) from the field, .655 (19 of 29) from three-point range and .963 (52 of 54) from the free-throw line.
“You just try to go out there and try to get wins,” he said. “I never think about accolades or statistics and things like that. I just go out there and try to get wins and play the best that I can play. All of a sudden, they just start coming.”
Like their floor leader, the Nuggets (20-13) are starting to roll. They’ve won four in a row and are making a case as one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
Denver had six players in double-figures against Houston and got double-doubles from Carmelo Anthony (33 points, 11 rebounds) and Nene (16 points, 11 rebounds).
Ty Lawson added 12 points to help keep the offense going when Billups sat out most of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. Reserve forward Gary Forbes also provided a spark with seven points, a steal and a blocked shot when the Nuggets surged ahead to start the fourth quarter.
“I thought Gary Forbes’ five minutes were fantastic,” Karl said. “We kind of had a wild card there.”
Forbes and Lawson, of course, were among the young pupils who paid attention when Billups dispensed his advice about keeping an even temperament.
It just goes to show that the veteran’s value goes well beyond the boundaries of the hardwood.