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Clippers can and must move on without Billups

Posted on: February 7, 2012 6:39 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 8:04 am
Chauncey Billups will miss at least eight months after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore

You have to wonder how angry at fate Chauncey Billups is. 

Billups was traded from Detroit to his hometown of Denver. He was part of a winning team there, advancing to the Conference Finals and giving the Lakers a fight. Things were headed in a good direction for him to finish his career as part of a contender.

Less than 24 months later, facing surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, there has to be a lot of confusion and resentment over how things got to this point.

After all, it wasn't Billups who wished to leave Denver. He had his agent leak that he would be unhappy being part of any move made. But the Carmelo Anthony saga was bigger than Billups, bigger than any of the other nearly dozen players involved. Billups was sucked up into it and shipped to New York. And Billups went along with it. He was a pro. He tried working in a system that was not suited to his needs, dealt with having his pride damaged by essentially being a tag-a-long to the gunner star Melo and his reality television wife. Here was a player who had a title to his name suffering to the whims of a superstar without jewelry. But he went along with it.

The Knicks were looking at moves. Billups asked them to not trade him. Then the Knicks started talking about bringing in Tyson Chandler, which would mean they'd need to amnesty Billups. Fine with him, he'd still get paid. But the way the amnesty structure was set up in a CBA (which Billups likely did not want but was willing to take like the rest of the players just to end the lockout), another team could claim him off waivers for a portion of his salary. For Billups, that was enough. He'd dealt with being traded like meat, that comes with part of the business. He'd dealt with being baggage to the Melo circus, again, part of the business. He'd done his best in New York like a professional. But if he was going to be waived, he was not going to wind up on a cellar-dweller. 

So he made it known. A professional his whole career, a locker-room leader and NBA champion, he had to openly threaten teams with disrupting their teams if they tried to bring him into a rebuilder.

The Clippers took him anyway.

And Billups was not happy about it, but in the end, his professionalism won out. He didn't show up surly. He didn't show up angry. Even when once again he became a part of a freakshow with the trade of Chris Paul, he did his thing. They wanted him to move to shooting guard. Sure thing.

And now, this.

Maybe he would have gotten injured anyway. Maybe his Achilles was a ticking time bomb. And he still gets paid, after all. The full amount of his contract. But consider that it's likely that Billups' career ends this way:

He suffered a potentially career-ending injury playing for a team who signed him off amnesty waivers after he specifically asked them not to using a clause in the CBA which he did not want from a team he didn't want to be sent to in the first place due the Melo drama which had nothing to do with him.

His season is over. He will not play for Team USA this summer. His career may be over. 

It is not difficult to come to the conclusion that Chauncey Billups deserved better than this. 

As for the Clippers, many will begin talks that this damages their team irreparably. But a quick look at the roster confirms that the Clippers are in as good a position to survive this as any team can be. They have a number of options. Observe: 

1. Move Caron Butler to shooting guard, start Ryan Gomes. Butler has flourished in the small forward position, stretching the floor. But he can just as easily move to two-guard. Ryan Gomes can fill the gap at small forward and from there out, the Clippers employ a large number of three-guard lineups anyway.

2. Start Randy Foye, keep Mo Williams off the bench, Butler stays at the three. This is what the Clippers have done when Billups has missed games due to a myriad of injuries. Foye is not at all Billups, but he is younger and more athletic. What's more, Foye is less likely to force the issue and try and score on his own, more likely to facilitate both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin along with Butler.

3. Start Mo Williams, bring Foye off the bench. Mo Williams has been a potential sixth man of the year candidate this season and has played exceptionally well. He would likely welcome a move to the starting lineup for his pride's sake and despite not having Billups' size, can work just fine next to Paul as a shooter. Williams is a scoring point regardless, and with the Clippers using Paul as a decoy on many possessions anyway, Williams can create with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan just as well.

4. Sign J.R. Smith, use either he or Mo Williams off the bench. Smith is due to be released from this obligations with the Chinese Basketball Association sometime in the next three to six weeks depending on playoffs. The Clippers are being heavily discussed as a suitor for him, and it would be a natural fit. They don't have the cap space to offer him a long term deal, but he could come in immediately, be given as many shot as he can find room for, and play for a team in contention. This scenario makes the most sense, whether it's him or or Williams off the bench.

The Clippers will miss Billups' on-floor leadership, his scoring, his defense, and his experience. But Billups also hasn't been a very productive player due to age. He fit well on the Clippers, but with their guard depth, they're well-suited to withstand this blow in time. It doesn't make it any better, but it's still a huge loss, but it's not one that creates a crisis in their backcourt. This team has too much talent left and too much at stake not to press forward.


Since: Feb 3, 2012
Posted on: February 9, 2012 1:10 pm

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

I think the Clippers are the most overrated team in the entire NBA.  They couldn't even handle a bottom rung lottery team missing two of their own starters.  They're soft, weak and do nothing but complain.  Their "stars" each were vastly outplayed.  One was outplayed by a backup and the other outplayed by an aging veteran with a bad ankle.

Since: Nov 1, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2012 5:41 pm

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

Mo should be givin the opportunity to fill it up each game with ample pt in every quarter its up to del negro to judge if hes hot or cold when in the game as he is a horrible defender. I also believe that giving randy foye more pt would be a good solution dude can ball hard. also bledsoe will be a nice energetic spark that isnt as big of a defensive liability as mo.

Since: Dec 23, 2010
Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:34 pm

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

Billups was the glue that held together those Pistons teams.  Rasheed and Rip are head cases, and Big Ben and Tayshaun have limited skills.  Props to Chauncey for what he did here in Detroit.

Since: Mar 13, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2012 11:29 am

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

Feel bad for Billups.  But look at his numbers.  Very weak at best.  Shoots too much, dribbles too much.  Very inefficient scorer.  I really don't think this will hurt them.  Take his 12 shots per game (where he only makes 4 of them) and distribute them among Griffin, CP3, and Mo williams and they will be better off.  He is also a ball killer and dribbles too much and then his teamates don't move when he dribbles the ball.  BTW Mo Williams shouldn't start.  Too small and will get posted up all day by bigger 2 guards.  

Since: Feb 8, 2012
Posted on: February 8, 2012 10:54 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Aug 5, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2012 8:44 am

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

I would start Mo Williams as he is a combo guard or more or less a scoring point guard.  Gomes and Foye can come off the bench.  If an when the Clips get JR Smith then I would say start Smith and Mo and the crew can come off.  You gotta have some scoring and spark coming off and Mo has been doing that all year before this latest set-back to Billips.

Since: Jun 3, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2012 8:27 am

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

I meant to say the NBA Eastern bad... anyway.... Mo averaged 16.4 ppg, 4.1 asists, & almost 4 rebs per game in the playoffs in 2009.

Since: Jun 3, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2012 8:23 am

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

About the Mo Williams comment, you forget that Mo Williams started for the Cavs and went to the NBA Finals. Mo was the only other Cav player that actually had a good series. Mo can get the job done and is a proven winner when you compare anyone else on the Clippers team. CP3 and Blake are clear cut and must go-to guys, but who else has the experience Mo Williams has.....

Since: Dec 14, 2011
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:55 am

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

I am completely devastated by this injury.  We've had our share of 'Clipper's Curse' incidents in the past but this takes the cake.  When the Clippers are 7-1 in Vegas to win the NBA Championship, you know things have changed.  The chemistry was truly perfect, they've improved the rebounding, and have shown they can handle the OKC Thunder better than anyone else in the West.  Mo Williams is perfect for 6th man but way.  JR Smith?  Please.  It's time to give Bledsoe some PT and hope he can keep developing over the last 40 or so.  This will cost them the 2 seed and give them a tougher road to through the playoffs.

Since: May 9, 2010
Posted on: February 7, 2012 11:40 pm

Clippers can and must move on without Billups

These sports writers are such drama queens. The guy had a great career and made lots of money at it. There's no tragedy here. Stop this cheapening of reality.

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