“I will be back,” Billups told Yahoo! Sports by phone. “I’m not done. I’m not retiring. I will definitely be back. This has been the story of my career, coming back, fighting, scrapping and I will play again.”
Billups suffered the tear on Monday night in Orlando, crumpling to the floor without warning. No collision. No contact. Just like that. He hadn’t felt any tenderness in the Achilles prior to the injury, he said. An MRI taken in Cleveland on Tuesday confirmed the tear.
Billups, 35, is a five-time NBA All-Star, a 2004 NBA Finals MVP and is considered one of the great leaders and winners of his generation. In a career of ups and downs, Billups believes strongly that he’s equipped to navigate this hard road back to the league. His contract expires at the end of the season and he’ll be a free agent this summer.
“I knew when I went down and tried to get up – and I couldn’t feel anything – that this was bad,” Billups said. “I had never felt anything like that before. It was completely non-impact. Nobody hit me. Nobody kicked me. Nobody was around. …I’m probably still in a little bit of shock over this.”
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Billups has spoken with doctors who have told him a rehabilitation period of six to nine months is possible. He’s resolved that his illustrious career won’t end with this injury. He plans to reach out to several athletes who have suffered the Achilles injury – including Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins and David Beckham – to gather information and advice.
“I’ve talked to a couple different doctors, gotten some opinions and I’m going to get a couple of more,” Billups said. “This injury is not what it was 10 or 12 years ago. It’s not an easy injury, but it’s gotten a lot better and easier to come back from. I’m telling you: I will definitely be back.”
When asked if this shortened NBA season could’ve played a part in the injury, so many games in such a short span of time, Billups said: “I guess it’s easy to blame this kind of a season, but, man, It’s been a real grind. An unbelievable grind. Sometimes I think these things were meant to happen, but we’ll never know.”
Initially angry the Clippers claimed him off amnesty waivers from the New York Knicks, Billups settled into an important role alongside Chris Paul and had the franchise in serious contention in the Western Conference. “This team has really been coming together, everybody’s role is being defined and the newness of it all had worn off,” Billups said. “This team will be fine. It’s still going to be really good.”
Before Billups hung up the phone, he wanted to be clear of this: No one needs to write the obit on his pro career, no one had better count him out.
“I’m focusing in a major way on coming back, and, without a doubt, my career is not over. You will see me again," he said. "I know that. You will see me playing again.”
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