Chauncey Billups just got here a month ago, so he isn't exactly and authority on civic history. But the 35-year-old point guard has been around the NBA long enough to know where things stand in Los Angeles.
Not an hour had passed after the Clippers 95-89 win over the Miami Heat and Billups found himself fielding questions about the team's next game Saturday night against the Lakers and whether it's a true rivalry now that the Clippers have won a few games with himself and Chris Paul this year.
"To be honest it's never really been a rivalry," Billups said. "We're going to try our best to make it one, but it's never really been a rivalry.
"That team [the Lakers] is as storied as it can be. This Clipper organization is trying to take steps forward and trying to make themselves something.
"I think a rivalry takes place over a number of years, going back and forth and beating each other. Celtics and the Lakers is probably a rivalry. The Cowboys and the Eagles. Duke and Carolina. I don't think we're there yet. I'd like to get there though."
Billups wasn't doing much talking the first time this topic came up in earnest. That would be December 16, two days after the Clippers pulled off the trade for Chris Paul and one week after the Lakers trade for Paul was rejected by NBA commissioner David Stern.
That was when Kobe Bryant threw down the first challenge to the young Clippers by saying, ""It's about damn time [the series became a rivalry]. We had one year there where they were doing something in the playoffs and we weren't [in 2006]. And now it looks like it can be something that's more consistent."
Billups was still getting used to the idea of being a Clipper on that day. He'd hoped to clear waivers, become a free agent and sign with a contending team like the Heat or Lakers. Instead the Clippers put in a $2 million claim for him after the Knicks amnestied his contract.
It's coincidence, of course, that the two roads Billups wasn't able to travel ended up being consecutive games on their schedule this week. But after Billups helped his new team to a stepping-stone win on Wednesday night, it felt like a little more than that. This win had meaning for all of the Clippers, but it sunk in a bit deeper for the only guy on the team who didn't choose to be here.
"This was a good sign tonight," Billups said. "That when the pressure gets up, our intensity went with it."
And about those roads not travelled?
"I'm the kind of person that I'm two feet in or two feet out," Billups said. "I can't be one in and one out. That's just not my make up. The only way I'm going to be able to help myself or help this team is to be in."