Clips await Chauncey Billups' arrival
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers expect point guard Chauncey Billups to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday, despite threats from Billups' agent that he might retire if he was claimed off waivers by a team he did not want to join.
"He'll be here tomorrow, we're making plane reservations right now," Clippers general manager Neil Olshey said. "I think with Chauncey, he really wanted to control the process. So it's been hard for him. He's a Hall of Fame level player. He's won championships.
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"But he understands that we had to do what was in the best interest of the organization, and now, not unlike Sam Cassell or Marcus Camby a few years back, it's our job to kind to kind of recruit him and indoctrinate him into our culture and get him excited about this team."
A source close to the situation told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Billups was "upset" after being claimed by the team, but "he'll be OK. It's just going to take some time."
As such, Olshey and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro have reached out and had several conversations with Billups since the team claimed him off waivers for a little over $2 million Monday afternoon after the New York Knicks had used the amnesty provision of the league's new labor agreement to shed his $14.2 million deal from their books.
The conversations so far have gone well enough that the team expects Billups to arrive in Los Angeles either late Tuesday night or Wednesday afternoon, even as it acknowledges that will take some time to help him warm to the idea of joining the Clippers when he'd hoped to clear waivers and become a free agent.
Had no team claimed him, Billups would have become an unrestricted free agent, sure to attract the interest of contenders such as the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers. ESPN.com reported earlier Monday that Dwight Howard also planned to lobby Billups to come to Orlando if he decided to stay with the Magic.
Billups agent Andy Miller has not responded to numerous messages seeking comment after the Clippers claimed him.
Olshey has continued to compare the situation to the team's acquisition of Cassell in August of 2005. Cassell was initially livid at the prospect of joining the Clippers. When he showed up to training camp in Santa Barbara, he didn't even want to board the bus to practice. Olshey said he convinced Cassell to take it one day at a time and the veteran eventually came around, had a great season and signed a two-year, $14 million contract extension with the team.
"We're not in a rebuilding mode anymore," Olshey said, arguing that the Clippers are a better team now than the one Cassell was asked to join. "We're here to win and Chauncey can help us do that. He knows that. I think once he gets here and embraces it, it's going to be a great addition for us.
"We've got a lot of guys who can play. Now we have to teach these guys how to play to win. To have someone like Mo (Williams), whose been to the conference finals, to have a guy like Chauncey, that's got rings, to it's going ot give them a road map to get them where they need to be."
Williams, who has become a team leader since coming over in a mid-season trade from the Cavaliers, isn't taking the news quite as well.
"When you're a starting point guard for a team and you see a team trade for a point guard, or bring a point guard in, it's a shock to you," he said. "I don't care how you take it. I worked (hard) this summer, getting prepared for this opportunity to lead this team. So yeah, it was a shock to me."
Williams insisted though, that he would approach the situation professionally.
"This is a difficult situation for me because Chauncey was a guy who took me under his wing when I came into the league and showed me the ropes so I'm not going to make it between me and Chauncey," he said.
"Me personally I'm going through adverse times myself. I have to approach it as a professional. I have to come to work each and every day. Trust me, these young guys are looking at me in this situation. They go home and say, 'I wonder how Mo will handle this?' A young guy might handle it the wrong way. But you still have to come to work and approach it as a man. "
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.