- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Yet he's prepared to miss many more game checks -- perhaps an entire season's worth -- while the players' association stands its ground in negotiations with the owners.
"For the betterment of the league going forward, that's just something that I'm going to have to sacrifice and that's kind of the position I'm in," Billups said on ESPN New York 1050's "The Stephen A. Smith Show."
Wednesday marked the 125th day of the NBA lockout. Players and owners are divided on many issues, including how to split league revenue and how to structure the salary cap.
"I'm willing to fight with the union," Billups said. "Do I want to lose $14 million or whatever it might be? I don't want to lose a dime. My career is almost over. I want all of that. But at the same time, I was in that other lockout (in 1998-99) and I know what those older guys were willing to do for me. ... I'm in that position now and that's where I stand."
Late last week, there was optimism that an 82-game season may be salvaged but talks fell apart when the league refused to budge from its proposal of a 50/50 split of basketball-related income and the players held at 52.5 percent.
Shortly thereafter, NBA commissioner David Stern canceled all games through Nov. 30, including Wednesday's Knicks season opener against the Miami Heat.
Billups, 35, who's in the final year of a $60.5 million contract, said he has spoken to "a lot of players" who are willing to sit out the season if it means signing a CBA they feel is fair.
"I could see a lot of players willing to do it," Billups said.
Billups also addressed reports of divisions within the NBA players' union. Both executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher have publicly denounced a Foxsports.com report stating that Hunter and another unnamed member of the union's executive board have questioned Fisher about his relationship with Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
Billups said the unity of the union is "strong." He believes it is "only natural" for players to have disagreements but added that "no matter how any one of those guys feel, they are going to do what's in the best interest of the union."
If the players and owners can salvage the season, Billups believes the Knicks can be one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
But he thinks the team has to solidify its defense in order to get there. The Knicks ranked 27th in points allowed last season and were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
"If these guys are serious about winning we know that the only way to win is to be better on defense. If guys are committed to do that, we've got the talent," Billups said.
He was then asked if some of his teammates who aren't traditionally thought of as strong defenders -- such as Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire -- are willing to learn and improve that aspect of their games.
"That's going to be something we're going to have to find out. I think so but I could be wrong," Billups said, adding, "I think those guys want to win and that's the only way to win."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
10hChris Broussard and Marc Stein
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