Chris Paul's Clippers Need Chauncey Billups Now More Than Ever
As he's been scrimmaging at full speed with the team, that inching could mean he's returning sooner rather than later, something the Clippers desperately need.
Billups tore his left achilles tendon last season, an injury that could have very well put an end to his illustrious career. However, he's nearly back and nearly ready to go, if reports from the Clippers and opinions from Caron Butler are to be believed.
The Clippers have hit a bit of a skid after starting the season out looking like one of the best teams in the NBA. It's not even the tough teams that are giving them troubles. They've already beaten the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs twice, and the Chicago Bulls.
Instead, it's some of the league's worst teams that give them the most trouble, already recording losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets and Golden State Warriors, resulting in a streaky season so far.
Los Angeles is in quite a funk right now, losing four in a row, including one particularly nasty loss to the Brooklyn Nets in which they only managed to put up 76 points. That's not exactly the look of a championship contender.
Of course, every team has their ups and downs, but it seems like this Clippers team doesn't have the nerve to deal with losing at this rate. In other words, they're starting to get upset about losing.
Butler talked about the team's most recent losing streak, lamenting the most recent loss to the New Orleans Hornets in which he hit nine three-pointers:
We're home, we need to win games and another opportunity comes (Wednesday). That last loss left a bad taste in our mouths.
Butler also talked about the reasons for the loss, mentioning the fact that their effort might not be what needs questioning. Instead, it could be their decision-making, and that the team doesn't necessarily need to play harder, but just smarter.
That sounds like something Billups could help out with right away.
Billups has been a constant calming force in the Clippers lineup, and as the oldest guy on the team not named Grant Hill, he acts as more of a second coach when he's on the floor. With a historically wishy-washy coach like Vinny Del Negro on the sidelines, that's never a bad thing.
He's not going to be a guy who can come in and score a bunch of points or really change the game late, but during the second or third quarter when they need to stop or extend a run, Billups is the perfect guy to have in the game.
Billups is rarely flustered. He's still a shooting threat and he specializes in playing smarter, while still playing hard.
Of course, the question that remains with another body coming into this Clippers backcourt surrounds where they find the minutes to play him. Who, between Chris Paul, Willie Green, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe will end up playing fewer minutes?
Well, the answer there could quite honestly be "none of the above," and rather Lamar Odom. Odom has played so poorly that the Clippers would be better off with a smaller lineup, stepping Crawford up to the small forward spot for stretches at a time and running Bledsoe as a shooting guard alongside Billups.
In this situation, Billups acts as the point guard for the second unit rather than Bledsoe, allowing Bledsoe to continue to put on his mini-LeBron act while giving him another smart point guard to play alongside.
It's a lineup that's going to need tinkering with (and with Del Negro, that might be a disaster), but Billups should definitely do more good than bad once he gets back onto this roster and starts calming everybody down.
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