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Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

Clippers counting on Billups' veteran savvy


LOS ANGELES — The concept of playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and working with old friends Chris Paul and Mo Williams is starting to grow on Chauncey Billups, who up until now was slow in embracing his new surroundings.

News photo
Veteran guile: The new-look Clippers are planning to lean on Chauncey Billups' wealth of experience this upcoming season. AP PHOTO

Billups spoke publicly for the first time since joining the rebuilt Clippers, who were handling the 14-year veteran with kid gloves until the initial shock and disappointment wore off following his sudden departure from the New York Knicks.

"I've been through a lot, trust me. It's been a long year, man," the five-time All-Star said Friday at the Clippers' Playa Vista training facility. "But I'm here to do what I do: try to make this team a better team and win in the process, and just be the player and person that I've been throughout my entire career."

Billups was one of three players acquired this week in an unprecedented flurry of roster revamping by the team's front office — including the acquisition of Paul in a multiplayer deal with the New Orleans Hornets, and the signing of well-traveled free agent Caron Butler, who won a championship last season with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Clippers won a waiver auction to get Billups, who was MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals when the Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers.

"There couldn't be a classier guy in this business than Chauncey," said Neil Olshey, the Clippers' general manager and president of basketball operations. "It hasn't been the easiest 18 months for him — not in terms of basketball, but in terms of basically how the process has been for him in different locations. But he's the ultimate pro, and he's been phenomenal through this process."

The 35-year-old point guard became available when the Knicks waived him under the NBA's new amnesty provision — saving themselves a cool $14.2 million and enabling them to afford free agent Tyson Chandler and the four-year, $56 million sign-and-trade contract he inked with Dallas before going to New York in a three-way trade with Washington last Saturday.

Billups was hoping to clear waivers after the Knicks cut him loose — which would have made him an unrestricted free agent. He hinted at retirement if he was taken by a club that didn't appeal to him, but according to published reports, he and agent Andy Miller were warned by the league that he would be in breach of his contract had he not reported to whichever club picked him up.

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