Billups’ future raises questions for Nuggets

No matter where Denver Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) visits, he knows the question is coming at some point. Where is Carmelo Anthony(notes) going?

“If I’m out and about, you can bank on it once or twice every day,” Billups said. “I tell them, ‘I don’t know.’ I wish I did know, but I don’t know. I don’t sweat ‘Melo about ‘Melo. I don’t have these extra conversations with him about it. That’s a decision for him, his family, his [management] team.

“I know ‘Melo knows that if he needs my advice, my unbiased advice, he can get it from me. We have that relationship. If he doesn’t [ask], I’m not going to be that guy that keeps talking to him, ‘What about this or what about this?’ I can’t do that.”

The Nuggets can buy out the last season of Chauncey Billups' contract for $3.7 million.
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Billups soon could be asked the same question of himself. The Denver native would like to retire with the Nuggets, but The Denver Post reported earlier this week that teams have been inquiring about Billups’ availability in trades. Billups’ contract also makes it possible for him to become a free agent after the season if the Nuggets decide to buy him out for $3.7 million rather than pay him the $14.2 million he’s due in the final year of his contract.

Billups’ future could be tied to Anthony’s. Anthony has refused to a sign a three-year, $64 million extension with the Nuggets and told Yahoo! Sports last month that he’s ready for a change. If the Nuggets decide to trade Anthony, it could signal the start of a rebuilding process that might not include Billups.

“I knew that at some point that was going to come, and my situation was going to kind of be like ‘Melo’s,” Billups said. “They look at me as an old veteran who really wants to win and play basketball. The average person says, ‘If Melo is gone, they’re not going to be any good. I know Chauncey doesn’t want to do that.’

“I knew at some point it was going to trickle down to me with people saying I’m going to get traded. I don’t listen too much to that.”

Billups, 34, has started the season slowly, averaging 13.8 points on 38.8 percent shooting. And while the Nuggets appreciate Billups’ contributions – both on the court and in the locker room – they also have a talented young point guard in Ty Lawson(notes). Lawson averaged 17 points and 5.9 assists in eight starts as a rookie last season. With Billups out due to a wrist injury, Lawson also started on Monday against the Golden State Warriors, contributing 14 points and four assists in the Nuggets’ victory.

“He’s a player that’s earned more time than we’ve given him probably,” Nuggets coach George Karl said of Lawson. “A lot of teams would be playing him 30 minutes a game.”

Said Lawson: “Chauncey is an All-Star; he’s been here. I’m just playing my role right now and doing what I can right now until I get the opportunity to start.”

Billups, Anthony and Karl have all said that this season’s Nuggets are more talented with Lawson and forward Al Harrington(notes) than the team that reached the Western Conference finals in 2009. But the Nuggets enter the weekend with an 8-6 record. With Chris Andersen(notes) returning this week and Kenyon Martin(notes) expected back before the All-Star break, the Nuggets still could emerge as a contender – provided Anthony is on the roster.

Anthony’s future will remain a constant topic for the Nuggets. New Jersey, New York, Houston, Philadelphia and Chicago are interested in Anthony but haven’t proposed an enticing enough offer to sway the Nuggets.

“ ‘Melo is here. He’s playing hard. He’s doing the best he can do,” Billups said. “It’s the circumstances that are the reasons we’re sitting around .500. It has nothing to do with ‘Melo’s potential free-agent situation and trade situation.”

Billups met his wife, Piper, while attending high school in Denver. He starred at the University of Colorado where his brother, Rodney, now is on the coaching staff. His parents and childhood friends still live in Denver. Billups also has told Nuggets officials he would like to join their front office when he retires.

As valuable as Anthony is to the Nuggets, trading Billups could be tough, too.

“This is where all my family is,” Billups said. “Mom, Pops, grandparents, everybody. This is genuinely home for me. I am in the downside, as far as my career is concerned. I know when my career is over I want to live in Denver. Why not have my kids in schools that they are going to be in and graduate from? A stable environment. That has a lot to do with me really wanting to be at home.

“But I’ve seen stranger things. I thought my career would end in Detroit.”


Slim pickings

John Wall
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Aside from Washington Wizards guard John Wall(notes), the 2010 rookie class has yet to make much of an impact.

Wall is the only rookie taken in last June’s draft – Blake Griffin(notes) was the No. 1 pick in 2009 – who is averaging more than 11 points. New York Knicks guard Landry Fields(notes), who was taken in the second round, is averaging just less than 11, as is Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins(notes), Wall’s teammate at Kentucky.

Philadelphia’s Evan Turner(notes) and Minnesota’s Wesley Johnson, the second and fourth picks, respectively, are averaging less than 10 points despite playing more than 28 minutes per game.

“It’s early in the season,” Fields said. “I’m sure a lot of guys will pick it up.”


Draft watch

Six NBA scouts and former Golden State Warriors general manager Chris Mullin were on hand to watch Colorado sophomore guard Alec Burks last Saturday night against San Francisco. The 2010 Big 12 Freshman of the Year didn’t disappoint with 29 points, five rebounds and two steals. He averaged 23 points on nearly 50 percent shooting through four games. While scouts want to see him play with more intensity and think his 3-point shooting needs improvement, they also have been impressed by his overall scoring ability.

Burks said he won’t enter the 2011 draft if a lockout is expected.

“I like Colorado,” Burks said. “There is no reason for me to not stay another year.

“I’m in no rush. The only rush I will be in is to help my mom out. If it not’s there, it’s not there. I will go back to school and get my education.”

Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups, who left Colorado after his sophomore year, has served as one of Burk’s mentors.

“I tell him to stay focused on the season. Don’t worry about everyone talking about you’re a lottery pick. Don’t waste any energy on that,” Billups said. “Focus on every single game and try to be the best player on the floor. If you do that, all the other things will fall in line.

“He’s a really good kid, humble, quiet, comes from a great family. I’m excited for him. I’m excited that another Buffalo will someday be in the league.”


Tip-ins

Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin is scheduled to have his surgically repaired right knee evaluated by Richard Steadman next week in Vail, Colo., to give Martin a better idea of when he can make his season debut. … Jarrett Jack(notes) was happy to be traded from the Toronto Raptors to the New Orleans Hornets. “Going from last place to first place in a matter of hours is crazy,” he said. “But I’m ready for the challenge. It’s cool. I think things will really get exciting with [Chris Paul(notes)] and myself out there together.” … The Philadelphia Tribune is spearheading an effort to urge the U.S. Postal Service to honor late Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain with a commemorative stamp. The hope is that the Chamberlain stamp is produced in 2012, which is the 50-year anniversary of his 100-point game.

Marc Spears is an NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
Send Marc a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Nov 26, 2010