By Christopher Dempsey
PARKER – It’s been a decade since Chauncey Billups was last pursued as hard by NBA teams in free agency as he expects to be this year.
And his good friend, L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul, aims to be at the top of the list, hoping to get him back in red, blue and white for the 2012-13 season.
“He knows my top priority right now is to make sure he’s back with us again next season,” said Paul, a special guest today at Chauncey Billups’ basketball camp at Parker Fieldhouse.
“That was the best backcourt mate I played with since I’ve been in the NBA. He just gave me so much confidence and made things so much easier for me. So I need him back and want him back with the Clippers.”
Billups averaged 14.9 points and 4.0 assists in 20 games – all starts – for the Clippers before his season came to an abrupt end with a torn Achilles on Feb. 7. He was playing on a one-year contract with the Clippers after being waived by the Knicks, who used the newly-created amnesty clause to do so prior to the season.
Now, Billups is an unrestricted free agent.
His biggest hurdle is getting back to full health. To that end, the 15-year veteran says he’s “far ahead of schedule” and plans on being ready for training camp in October, wherever that may be. Paul wants that to be Clippers training camp. They were 15-6 when Billups went down last season and just 25-20 after that.
Billups said he plans to milk the free agent process for all it’s worth.
“I liked it a lot (in Los Angeles), but of course I would be crazy not to entertain any other offers that I might have,” he said. “That’s the fun of being a free agent.”
Billups has been part mentor, part friend to Paul ever since the point guard arrived in the NBA in 2005 from Wake Forest. Paul called playing alongside Billups last season “the best thing ever.”
“I tell people all the time had Chauncey not got injured we was going to win the championship,” Paul said.
And progress on his recruitment of Billups?
“I think it’s going well,” Paul said. “The top priority now is to get him healthy. I think that was the toughest thing for me. When he got injured I was messed up because I know how hard he works and how much he loves to play. It feels a lot better now because I know how hard he’s been working and I know he’s going to be back.”
Follow Chris Dempsey on Twitter @dempseypost or email him at email@example.com