PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – When Chauncey Billups went down because of a torn left Achilles tendon seven months ago in Orlando, Fla., Chris Paul was in tears in the visiting locker room of the Amway Center.
Paul had often referred to Billups as his "big brother" and the "best backcourt teammate" he has ever had and knew Billups would be impossible to replace. There was also a chance that Billups' season-ending injury would turn out to be career-ending for the 36-year-old Los Angeles Clippers guard.
On Saturday, Paul and Billups were back together on a basketball court again for the first time since Feb. 6 when Billups suffered his injury. Paul, who had surgery on his right thumb last month, and Billups haven't been cleared for full contact practice yet, but they went through drills with their teammates and worked out on the side during five-on-five scrimmages.
"It was great, obviously me and Chauncey couldn't do any contract things, but we got to get up and down and go through the plays," Paul said. "I was able to do everything but scrimmage today. Me and Chauncey had a chance to watch a lot. I caught myself watching over there on the sidelines and I was actually excited. I hate to watch basketball, I obviously love to play, but I'm sitting there watching Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom and all these great players out there on the court. I'd never really seen that."
Paul had pushed Billups hard to re-sign with the Clippers this off-season, which he eventually did in July, inking a one-year deal that could be worth up to $4.3 million.
"It was real nice to see Chauncey out there," Paul said. "When coach called first team out so we could go over things, me and Chauncey went out there and then when they started scrimmaging, me and Chauncey came to the sideline."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said both Paul and Billups have helped their teammates despite being unable to scrimmage and will monitor the progress of both every day to see when they can return. Paul is expected to be back within two weeks while Billups could return sometime in November or December.
"They'll continually see how they feel every day and we'll give them more and more to do," Del Negro said. "They probably went half the practice today."
Saturday's practice was also Odom's first with the Clippers since he left the team in 2003 and, really, his first official NBA practice since he and the Dallas Mavericks cut ties April 9, before the end of last season. Odom said he wasn't in the shape he'd like to be in but plans to get there by the end of training camp.
"I just kind of threw myself in there and tried to go get it," Odom said. "This is a long season. It's a marathon and you have to be in great, great condition to run a marathon, but I'll get better and better as I go on in camp. I'm not worried about myself though."