NBA AM: Billups Guarantees 2013 Return To Court
The lockout-shortened 2012 season is one Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups would surely like to erase from the historical record. Prior to the season, the New York Knicks used the newly-created amnesty clause on Billups in order to create enough salary cap room to sign center Tyson Chandler – who would later win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
The Clippers claimed Billups off waivers, but not until after the former Finals MVP briefly contemplated retiring from the league. The guard ultimately proved to be a solid acquisition for the upstart Clippers, posting averages of 15 points and 4 assists in twenty appearances, while providing the young team with veteran leadership.
Then disaster struck.
While playing in a road contest versus the Orlando Magic back in February, Billups suffered a season ending left Achilles’ tendon injury which also left his career in serious doubt, given his age. After suffering the injury Billups, who will be 36 at the start of next season, vowed he would return to the court.
As the veteran guard watched the Clippers get eliminated in the second round of the playoffs at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, he reiterated his desire to return to the court with the Clippers and put to rest any recent retirement rumors which may have started brewing.
“I’m definitely going to give this a huge amount of consideration this summer. I feel like we’ve got some unfinished business a little bit,” Billups told Broderick Turner of the LA Times on a possible return to the Clippers. “You never know what direction the team is going, if they even want me back. I’ve learned not to really assume nothing.”
On the surface, bringing back Billups for another year to provide leadership with their young core seems like a no-brainer, but the Clippers have a variety of important decisions to make this summer.
First order of business will likely be offering All-Star power forward Blake Griffin a contract extension. Griffin could command up to $95 million as a max level player. Secondly, the team will need to decide whether to exercise their option on embattled head coach Vinny Del Negro’s contract by June 1. Also looming is the future of perennial MVP candidate (when healthy) Chris Paul, who can become a free agent after next season. Paul has made no secret of his desire to be in a position to compete for championships year in and year out, so the club will need to convince him enough with their roster moves to secure his long-term commitment.
Lastly, the team will need to make free agent decisions on Billups, Nick Young, Randy Foye and Kenyon Martin with $57.7 million in salary commitments already on the books for the 2013 season.
While Billups would love to return Los Angeles, he didn’t rule out taking his talents elsewhere. The only guarantee at this point is that he’ll be attempting a comeback from a devastating injury at an advanced age.
“I don’t know if this is going to be my last time [at Staples Center],” Billups said. “But if it is, I had a good time. But if not, I’m looking forward to continuing. I’m definitely going to be back playing next year. For sure and you can believe that. Believe it.”
New Orleans Hornets Coach Not Impressed By 2012 Draft Class: It goes without saying the New Orleans Hornets are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project in the post Chris Paul era. The good news for the team is that it possesses two lottery picks for next month’s draft, decent salary cap room to add talent and new ownership firmly in place.
The bad news is the team’s head coach, Monty Williams, doesn’t view the upcoming draft as a place the team will make significant strides in terms of talent upgrades.
“I don’t see this deep draft everybody is talking about,’’ Williams told John Reid of The Times Picayune. “I think there are a few players at the top that are really good that can be good players. But I don’t see any Carmelos or LeBrons. The last few weeks I’ve had a chance to look at all these young guys on tape and I’m not jaded by the hoopla as everybody else is. I think there are good players, but I don’t see this deep draft.’’
NBA scouting director Ryan Blake had a slightly different take than Williams, especially on the power forward crop, which may bode well for the Hornets who are still reeling from the loss of big man David West during this past offseason as well.
“There are backup point guards available in this draft but not in the terms of starters like John Wall or Kyrie Irving,” Blake also told The Times Picayune. “But power forward is really our spot. It’s the year of the power forward. We’ve got Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson and Perry Jones. It’s always good to have two lottery picks.”
The team may also be seeking to upgrade their talent at point guard to pair alongside the high scoring Eric Gordon.
Gordon is more than likely headed to restricted free agency and it is almost a certainty the team locks him up long term and matches any offer for his services this summer.
“I could foresee us drafting a big, but there are a couple of guards in this draft that are pretty good with a high upside,” Williams added. “It’s one of those situations where the pick will dictate all of that, and (General Manager) Dell (Demps) may have a situation where he may want to trade the pick to get a veteran player. We’re still not sure. We’ve got to find out where we’re going to draft.”
HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis currently has the Hornets selecting Kansas’ Thomas Robinson with the No. 4 overall pick and Weber State’s Damian Lillard with the No. 10 selection in his latest mock draft.
San Antonio Spurs’ Danny Green, Playing Into Big Bucks? The 2012 free agent shooting guard class is expected to boast notable names such as Jamal Crawford, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon and J.R. Smith.
But one of the lesser known players, San Antonio Spurs’ Danny Green, is improving his stock while the aforementioned d guys watch him from home during the postseason.
Green is averaging 10.4 points and 4 rebounds for the Spurs during the playoffs, a run which includes sweeps of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. From an efficiency standpoint, Green is connecting on 50 percent of his shots in the playoffs and has nailed 16-of-35 (46 percent) of his attempts from three-point range, scoring in double figures in five of the Spurs’ eight postseason contests. He also serves as a key cog in San Antonio’s defensive scheme, notably forcing Clippers guard Chris Paul into forced shots and erratic play during their series.
Green won’t command the bucks Crawford, Mayo, Gordon and Smith are likely to take home this summer, but the No. 46 overall pick of the 2009 draft has surely played himself into a very respectable multi-year deal.
Paying Respect (RIP): HOOPSWORLD would like to send condolences to the family of former NBA player Bob Boozer, who died this past weekend.
Boozer was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1959 draft, won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and also won a NBA championship as a professional in 1971 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Boozer and his fellow teammates on the 1960 Olympic team were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2010
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11am. Next up is HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston who will rock at 3pm EST. Closing out the night will be HOOPSWORLD’s Jason Fleming with his weekly NBA chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats