Chauncey Billups: “I’m In”
New Los Angeles Clipper Chauncey Billups met with the media for the first time since the team picked him off on waivers (via the New York Knicks’ amnesty claim) on Friday.
Billups explained why, at least initially he was having a difficult time adjusting to the change.
“To be honest, it’s been a really long last year for me,” said Billups. “The whole Melo-drama in Denver and going from that and getting traded, when I never really thought I would be; and then embracing that whole situation in New York, going through the lockout which was strenuous and then coming back and just being waived was something that I never thought was going to happen.”
Chauncey had hoped to spend the rest of his career in Denver, his home town, but was included in the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony deal last season.
“I had hoped like any other hard working person . . . that’d I’d be able to control my own destiny,” said Billups on the Clippers’ waiver claim. “It didn’t happen. I’m disappointed that it didn’t happen but that’s life.”
“I’m a Clipper. I’m happy to be here. It could have been much worse,” said Billups who had expressed (prior to the Clippers picking him up) that he did not want to end up with a team going through the rebuilding process.
“This is really a good situation,” said Chauncey. “These guys are ready to take the next leap and hopefully I can help them with that.”
Billups was the 2004 NBA Finals MVP, staring with the Detroit Pistons while beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the last year of the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant era.
“I just want to have a chance to win it all,” said Billups. “I won it before and I don’t have that many years left in the league to play and I want to make them count. I want to be playing for something.”
Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey mentioned numerous times over the past couple of days that the team was very happy to Billups and his Bird Rights, giving LA the chance to re-sign Chauncey beyond the current season as a free agent.
Is Billups over his initial qualms and ready for the season with the Clippers?
“I’m the kind of person that . . . I’m never one foot in and one foot out,” said Billups. “I’m in two feet in or two fee all the way out. I’m in.”
Still, Chauncey admitted that he initially contemplated retirement.
“Lucky that it was the Clippers that took me. I know that this not the Clippers of old and they do want it to win and they do want to do it right,” said Billups. “If the situation was different and I was somewhere else . . .”
Complicating matters somewhat, although not in a negative way, was the team’s blockbuster acquisition of Chris Paul.
“Chris is like a little brother to me. We’ve been very close throughout the years since he’s been in the league. I’m excited for the opportunity to play with him,” said Billups who will likely have to move to shooting guard alongside Paul.
“I’m a point guard. In my eyes we’re going to be probably starting two point guards. Not a point guard and a shooting guard. I’m a lead guard and a playmaker, so is Chris. We’re going to cause a lot of teams a lot of problems,” said Billups. “Of course I’m going to be guarding two-guards, I’m a little bit bigger than Chris.”
Regardless, Billups isn’t worried about how the pair will mesh on the floor.
“We’re going to find a way to make it work,” said Chauncey, “I think you’ve got two guys who want to win and know how to win,”
So far Billups is impressed by the team’s mix of younger stars and veterans.
“You’ve got some young guys here that lack experience but with myself and Chris, and Mo [Williams] . . . Caron [Butler] who have been through some battles as well, us guys I think we’ve got to bring them along. We’ve got to bring them along fast.”
Naturally Griffin stands out to Chauncey.
“From what I see he wants to be great. He works extremely hard on this game; something I think is a lost art with this new age of players. Because of that that, with the gifts that he has (athleticism), coupled with his work ethic, you’re going to see a great player for years.
Billups doesn’t expect the Clippers to be an under-the-radar franchise any longer.
“With the additions that this team has made, people are going to be expecting us to be a really good team,” said Chauncey. “With that expectation is pressure. I don’t think that these guys have been in that position to deal with that. They were able to sneak up on teams last year . . . that’s over with. Teams will be waiting on us.”
As far as the future, how much basketball does Billups have ahead of him?
“I feel like I have a lot of career left,” said Billups. “I wanted to be in a winning situation. I want to go out of this game gracefully (in two or three years, whenever that may be).”
I want to out gracefully . . . winning. That’s what I’m all about,” said Chauncey. “I’m all about winning. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Curious how the Clipper came up with the winning $2,000,032 waiver bid on Billups?
The Clippers had about $3 million in cap space but a source with the team indicated they didn’t want to over bid. The minimum was about $1.4 million so they figured $2 million had a chance.
The team wanted to put in a little padding, just in case, so they took the $2 million and on 32, Griffin’s jersey number, to the total.
The source described the process as a one-time bid, in the dark. The league never informed them of any other bids and what amounts may have been offered.
Butler a Champion
Forward Caron Butler says he’s in great shape after missing the NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks due to a knee injury.
“Yeah, I was very close for the Finals, and feeling great,” said Butler. “You know, I’ve been doing two-a-days ever since, and working out extremely hard. Our training camp’s been going so good so far. I’m looking forward to playing basketball, playing games.”
Even though he couldn’t make it on the court to close the deal on the championship, it was a tremendous experience for Butler to be a part of.
“Man it’s special,” said Caron. “The team camaraderie was second to none, obviously because we won the title, I learned a lot in the locker room . . . playing alongside some of the best leaders ever like Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, and hopefully I can apply that to myself and come over here and shed some of that light.”
Cook Hitting Shots
Olshey joked that reserve forward Brian Cook hasn’t missed a shot all of camp. Brian didn’t get much of an opportunity to play last season but with a thinner front court, he may get more of an opportunity.
“I worked hard every day with my trainer,” said Cook about the extended offseason. “I was with Blake a lot. A lot of guys, we got together once or twice a month. We were just trying to keep that chemistry and keep it going.”