For the first part of last season, Chauncey Billups provided veteran leadership and clutch play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Then, the experienced guard went down with a tough season-ending injury and there was even talk that his career might be over. He continued to inspire from the bench, but during the middle part of the season he was definitely missed on the floor as the Clippers struggled to find their identity before finishing strong and making the playoffs. Originally, he was projected to be back in January, but now Chauncey is talking about being ready for the start of the season.
This seems like a fast return, but it would solidify the shooting guard position. Billups has been a point guard throughout his career, but he seemed to work well with Chris Paul at the point. I think it worked because both players are unselfish and are comfortable as scorers and distributors. Without Chauncey, the Clips do not really have a starting shooting guard. They did sign Jamal Crawford, but he is more of a backup at this point in his career. I'm not sold on Crawford as a great long-term solution at the two-guard position.
Is there a rush?
You do worry a little bit about Chauncey getting hurt again. He isn't exactly at the front end of his career and it sure would be good to have him healthy and productive for the playoffs. If Chauncey is back for the opener, I hope it is because he is ready and not because he is trying to prove something. Sometimes the body just needs to heal a little longer. This season, the NBA will be back to a full 82-game season.
If Chauncey can make it back for the start of the season, he could be a big part of Clipper success. The Clippers have added a lot of veteran help in the offseason in addition to bringing back Billups. Crawford, Lamar Odom and Grant Hill were brought in for their experience and steady play. If Chauncey is healthy, he may be the kind of complimentary leadership that is needed to balance CP3 and Blake Griffin.
It would be good to see Chauncey back on the floor, but I hope he doesn't rush it.
The author grew up in Seattle and now lives in Los Angeles, where he waits patiently for the Sonics to return to the Pacific Northwest. In the meantime, he roots for the Clippers to become a winning franchise, and perhaps even the most popular team in their own city. You can follow him on Twitter @tpheifer.
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