Billups adjusts to role, but enjoys PG spot

March, 18, 2013
3/18/13
5:10
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- A slight smile crept over Chauncey Billups' face prior to the start of the second quarter in the Los Angeles Clippers’ 93-80 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

As the Clippers took the court for the start of the period, Billups was back in the position he has often said he was born to play. He was once again the point guard of his team. It's a position Billups hasn’t played much of since the Knicks waived Billups prior to last season under the NBA’s amnesty clause.

He was claimed by the Clippers against his wishes soon after and demanded to be let go after the Clippers traded for his longtime friend Chris Paul. As much as Billups wanted to play with Paul and was intrigued by the prospect of grooming a young point guard like Eric Bledsoe, he wanted to play point guard. He didn’t want to spend his final years in the NBA learning how to play a new position while teaching younger players how to play his preferred position.

Paul ended up convincing Billups to stay in Los Angeles, and despite suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon tear last season, Billups enjoyed his time with the Clippers so much he re-signed with them in the offseason when he could have easily gone elsewhere.

But Billups would be lying if he said he still doesn’t yearn to play point guard. Billups has been given an opportunity recently because Bledsoe has been sidelined the past three games with a sore left calf and is expected to miss Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.

“I love [playing point guard], man, I love it,” Billups said. “That’s obviously my natural position. Just having the ball and being able to make decisions and having something to do with what we run and how we execute and being able to direct out there, it’s second nature to me. So, of course, it’s very fun for me to be back in that position.”

“It’s great for me. It’s great to do what I do. It’s been great to be able to do that, but we look forward to [Bledsoe] coming back. We really need him.”

Billups has been candid about the difficulty in adjusting to playing shooting guard at 36 after being a point guard since he entered the NBA back in 1997. The 6-foot-3 Billups is almost always smaller and slower than the player he’s defending, and whatever advantages he had from an experience level as a point guard doesn’t always transfer to playing shooting guard.

When Billups and Paul are on the floor, Billups is basically trying to space the floor and set up for an open shot instead of directing traffic, which he did so well in Detroit and Denver while playing in seven straight conference championships and winning the NBA Finals MVP in 2004.

“Playing the 2 I don’t get to control the game as much,” Billups said. “I don’t get to do too much with the ball. I have to wait on it, but that is the position I’m here to play, and I have to do my best at that.”

Billups has played only 18 games this season while dealing with various injuries and registered only 20 games last season. While he looks more comfortable on the court now, Billups won’t likely be back to the level he was on prior to his Achilles injury.

“I’m feeling much better as far as my movement and my conditioning,” Billups said. “There won’t be a stage where I’m going to be totally 100 percent but I’ll continue to get healthier during the season. I just finally got to a point last year before I got hurt where I was figuring it out. And then I went down and missed a year, so that’s part of the development as well.”

The biggest adjustment for Billups has been getting into a rhythm offensively while he’s been playing off the ball and waiting for Paul to get him the ball.

“It’s different. It’s definitely different,” Billups said. “But a shooter is a shooter. You’re used to having the ball in your hand and shooting off the dribble. That is a different shot than a drive-and-kick shot. It’s just different. It’s an adjustment, but it’s easy. It’s basketball. You just do what you do.”

While Billups is currently relishing his time playing some backup point guard as Bledsoe rehabs his injury, he doesn’t regret his decision to stay in Los Angeles to play alongside Paul.

“What I saw was a challenge,” Bilups said. “I went from being a point guard to basically just kind of spotting up and waiting, and that’s tough for me but being on this team makes it a lot easier and having a point guard in Chris who I trust. He makes it easy for me, but it is a challenge. I’m used to controlling the game and having the ball in my hands and having an effect on what’s going on, to really just spacing. It’s tough, but I’m getting used to it.”

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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