According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups will make his season debut tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Billups will reprise his role from a year ago as the starting shooting guard.
Most important of all, Billups' return will stabilize the Clippers erratic chemistry.
Clippers guard Chauncey Billups will make his season debut tonight against Minnesota, a source tells Y! Sports. Billups will start at SG.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) November 28, 2012
Billups has been sidelined since February of 2012 after tearing his left Achilles tendon (via ESPN Los Angeles).
Prior to Billups return, the Clippers had reached both extremes in terms of team success. A tale of two halves, if you will.
L.A. started the season at 8-2, securing wins over the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. In turn, they'd firmly established themselves as one of the top teams in the NBA through 10 games.
With victories against the league's elite, how could they not be considered as such?
Starting with a 117-111 overtime loss at the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, the Clippers have embarked on a four-game losing streak. They've lost by double-digits in two of their four losses, with their latest defeat coming by seven points against the 4-9 New Orleans Hornets.
That loss resulted in what some consider to be a subliminal revolt against head coach Vinny Del Negro (via The Orange County Register).
Fortunately for the Clippers, the return of Billups will neutralize the doubts over team chemistry. From his unparalleled leadership to his late-game heroics, Mr. Big Shot's benefit is limitless.
So where do we start?
Saving the Second Unit
With the return of Chauncey Billups to the starting lineup, the Clippers' declining second unit will be saved. Although that statement may confuse a few minds, allow the following piece of information to enlighten you.
Over the span of the Clippers' four-game losing streak, the second unit is shooting 41.5 percent from the floor. A direct result of the elevated level of defensive pressure facing Jamal Crawford.
How opponents are doing so was outlined in a previous article (via B/R). For a quick recap, look no further than the fact that opponents are trapping Crawford early and forcing his teammates to beat them with their shot.
That's something that they've clearly failed to do.
With Billups' cleared to return to the starting lineup, opposing defenses must now account for the smooth shooting Willie Green on the second unit. This presence will alleviate the defensive pressure on Crawford.
So how about the starters?
Lethal Lead Guard Combination
With all due respect to Willie Green, whose presence will elevate the quality of the second unit, he just wasn't cutting it with the starters. Aside from the fact that he is averaging a mere 5.2 field goal attempts per game, Green's efficiency was not enough for a team in need of an extra push.
Even as he shot 66.7 percent from beyond the arc over the span of the four-game losing streak, the Clippers were calling for more.
What Chauncey Billups provides to the starting lineup is not just a reliable shooter, but the type of player who can take over a game with his facilitating. As soon as you cover the dive-man off of a screen, Billups has the ability to step back for an open three.
Pick your poison.
As for the defensive end of the floor, Billups' mobility could be limited. He is 36 years old and coming off a torn Achilles tendon, although that should not limit his contributions as much as one might expect.
Billups' greatest defensive strength has always been his solid base and footwork. Considering he was never much of a ball hawk to begin with, an inability to make an athletic play on the ball should not damage Billups' game.
Nor should it hurt their elite perimeter pairing.
In fact, it should create an even more interesting dynamic between he and Chris Paul as the two lead guards. With Billups working as the contain man, Paul can continue to build on his four seasons as the league-leader in steals.
Over the past four games, the most notable aspect of the Los Angeles Clippers' shortcomings has been their poor performances during the closing minutes of games. They've struggled to make defensive stops while closing the gap and are coming up short as they look to put a game away.
Fortunately for LAC, Chauncey Billups is as good as they come in both of those areas.
Billups has earned the nickname of "Mr. Big Shot" due to his uncanny ability to step up with the game on the line. Whether that's coming up with a stop on defense or draining the long three to create or break a tie, Billups is as reliable as they come.
This will be especially important come the postseason, where Billups was sorely missed in 2011-12.
Although Billups is no longer the All-Star caliber player that he was in Detroit and Denver, he remains worthy of the faith and admiration the Clippers organization has placed in him. He's also deserving of the fear that he strikes in opposing defenses.
Paired with his leadership qualities and the rotational options that he creates, Billups is the perfect stabilizing factor for the Clippers' team chemistry.
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