Chauncey Billups targeting opener
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, five months removed from season-ending surgery to repair his torn left Achilles tendon, said on Monday he intends to be on the floor for the Clippers' opening game next season.
"I plan on playing all 82 games this year," Billups. "I'm on pace to be back sometime in October so that's what I'm shooting for. I do plan on being ready to go."
Billups walked on to the Clippers' court Monday afternoon to address the media for the first time since re-signing with the team last week. He walked without a limp or the boot he wore at the end of last season and said he had already begun some basketball activity.
"I'm grinding. I'm working really hard. There was a report that I wouldn't be back until January but I'll be back far before that," Billups said. "I just started to get on the court a little bit and shoot the ball and move. I can't run full speed yet but I can move from side to side and I'm getting my shot up and getting my rhythm."
Billups, who averaged 14.9 points and 4.0 assists in 20 starts for the Clippers last season, suffered the injury on Feb. 6 in Orlando and some expected the 35-year-old Billups to retire given the injury was expected to sideline him for close to a year.
"I'm not a spring chicken so when I went down everyone thought I was over with," Billups said. "But those were the people that don't really know me and how hard I work and how determined I am so to be able to come back will be a big deal."
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When Billups does return, he expects to resume his role as a starter in the backcourt alongside Chris Paul, who continued to recruit Billups hard in the offseason to re-sign with the team. Billups said the continuity of keeping the same starting five from last season and adding Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom to come off the bench convinced him that the Clippers could contend for a championship this season.
"In Jamal and Lamar you have two guys that have won Sixth Man of the Year and guys who know and embrace their role and not worry about nights that they don't play 30 minutes," Billups said. "There might be nights that they play 22 minutes but they will go out there and take advantage of every minute that they have."
Billups' stance on the Clippers is different than it was after he was waived by the New York Knicks on Dec. 11 under the NBA's amnesty clause. The Clippers placed the winning bid to land him.
Back then it seemed like he wanted to play anywhere else but now seven months later, as a free agent, Billups chose to return.
"I just want to win a championship," Billups said. "I don't have another 10 years to play in the league, I want to win now and that's what I'm shooting for and I think that I can do it here and that's the reason why I made the choice. I'm happy. We're going to do it right this time, it's me picking the Clippers this time, which is different than it was last time."
If Billups does make it through this season injury-free, he said he foresees himself possibly playing two to three more seasons given how he currently feels.
"This injury has given me a chance to clean up other issues I had going on in my body," Billups said. "I do feel like when I come back I'll be healthier than I've been in years and probably the best shape I've ever been in, so I'll probably be able to play longer."