The Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups will make his 2012-2013 season debut tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This will be his first live action for Billups since February 6th of last season, where he tore his Achilles tendon against the Orlando Magic.
He will be rejoining a completely different team than the one he left last season. The Clippers are a much deeper team this year, and with the return of Billups, now have to ask themselves one question, who’s minutes will Billups be taking?
I’m sure that head coach Vinny Del Negro has asked himself that same question many times already, knowing that it was going to come up sooner or later. The Clippers have started Willie Green at shooting guard through the first 14 games of this season, which was a job held by Billups for 20 games last season until he got hurt. The easy decision would be to put Billups back where he was during last season, but the 30.4 minutes per game that he averaged is unrealistic on this team.
The Clippers also have Jamal Crawford coming off of the bench at that same position, which is why Green has only averaged 18.4 minutes per game this season. Crawford has been the sixth man that Clippers had hoped for, and he has been on the court at the end of games for them so far this season, averaging 28.9 minutes per game.
Billups has always been known for his clutch shooting at the end of games, which has given him the nickname “Mr. Big Shot.” So now the Clippers are left with another question, who does coach Del Negro put out there now at the end of games?
Billups, 36-years-old, averaged 15 points and four assists in those 20 games last season. The Achilles tendon injury is known to be one of the hardest injuries to come back from, so who really knows what player the Clippers are going to get. The Clippers will be happy if Billups can get back to anything close to what he was for them last season.
Depending on his play he could also take away minutes from Eric Bledsoe, who has become another valuable weapon for the Clippers off of the bench. Bledsoe is one of the most explosive players at the point guard position and can score, defend, and just flat-out create havoc for any opponent, averaging 18.9 minutes per game so far this season.
So Green will most likely be the first guy that will lose minutes with the return of Billups. If Billups can return to form then Crawford and Bledsoe would be next, but that’s a long shot. The way Bledsoe and Crawford have performed this season it would be hard to take away minutes from them no matter how good Billups plays.
The Clippers are just ecstatic to have one of their biggest leaders back in action, despite these questions that follow his much-anticipated return. However, it will be interesting to see how some of the players react when their minutes start declining with the return of Chauncey”Mr. Big Shot” Billups to the Clippers’ lineup.
Follow Michael Stephenson on Twitter