Billups sees Clippers as strange fit

Chauncey Billups is expected to start at shooting guard for the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas night, and if you would have told him that two weeks ago, he wouldn’t have been happy. Never mind that he gets the chance to play with All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Put on amnesty waivers by the New York Knicks, Billups warned teams not to claim him. His preference was to become a free agent and sign with either the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers.

The Clippers ignored Billups’ demands and claimed him anyway. The next day, they traded for Paul – another point guard – which angered Billups even more.

Chauncey Billups wanted to become a free agent and sign with the Heat or Lakers.
(NBAE/Getty Images)

“My whole thing was if they were pursuing C.P., why would they get in my way?” Billups said. “When they got me, the C.P. trade was off. Then it was back on, off, back on and then, boom, they get C.P. It made me more like, ‘Why would y’all get in my way if that is what you were trying to do?’ ”

In the 10 days since, Billups has accepted his new team, dismissing his desire to play for the Heat or Lakers as, “it wasn’t meant to be.” With the Clippers loaded at point guard – they also have Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe – Billups is willingly moving to shooting guard to play next to Paul.

“I can’t be one foot in and one foot out,” he said. “I’m two in or all out. I can’t do what I do if I’m out. So I’m all in.”

It helps that Billups has a strong friendship with Paul. The two spoke throughout Paul’s trade process, including when Paul was seeking a move to the Knicks.

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“Since his rookie year and playing against each other, we exchanged numbers and always kept in touch,” Billups said. “I’ve become a big brother to him. The relationship has always been solid and cool. It was never nothing about that. But we are both two of the top point guards in the game. It didn’t make sense [for the Clippers to get both of them].”

Billups eventually cooled down after speaking with his wife, parents, friends and old coaches. Billups previously played shooting guard with the Denver Nuggets during the lockout-shortened 1999 season when he was paired with point guard Nick Van Exel. He also played shooting guard for Team USA during the 2010 world championships when Derrick Rose was point guard. Billups isn’t fond of the position because he often has to defend an opponent 2 or more inches taller than him.

“When you play two point guards like that, you have to somehow use it as an advantage,” Billups said. “Both of us have to run pick-and-rolls, incorporate what’s going on and make teams match up with us because we are going to be small in the backcourt. And I never liked playing [shooting guard], to be honest with you, because the one advantage that I always had was I was bigger and stronger than anyone at [point guard].

“Now I slide down and I’m smaller than everyone at my position. What are we going to do to that even that out? Those are things I talked to [Clippers coach] Vinny [Del Negro] about. We just got to get creative.”

Don’t be surprised if Billups is handling the ball as much or more than Paul on offense – which would allow Paul to be a stronger scoring threat. Billups believes their backcourt partnership will get Paul some easy jump shots.

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“With me and Chauncey, it will be just guards,” Paul said. “You don’t have to put a point guard in front of [our names] or shooting guard. That’s the thing I’m most excited about is playing off the ball.”

Billups averaged 15.5 points, 3.5 assists and two steals in two preseason games against the Lakers while shooting 62.5 percent from 3-point range. In the Clippers’ opener, he’ll likely be matched up with Monta Ellis, the Golden State Warriors’ 6-foot-3 guard. In the next two games, he’ll face bigger guards in the San Antonio SpursManu Ginobili and Billups’ former teammate, Rip Hamilton, who’s now with the Chicago Bulls.

“It’s all good,” Billups said. “I’m going to do what I always do: Make the situation better than when I got here.”

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Marc Spears is an NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated Saturday, Dec 24, 2011