2012-2013 Clipper Player Preview: Chauncey Billups

Sam Greenwood

For three weeks this preseason, we'll be publishing Player Previews for each of the 15 players currently under contract with the Clippers. In some cases there may not be much difference from last season's Exit Interviews, but the team does have seven new faces, and there were some significant developments over the off-season for some of the returning players as well, so let's get caught up with all of them before the season starts. Today's edition, veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, who is returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

(Note from John Raffo: I'm not sure if we've already done this, can't remember, but though you might not recognize the name "Robert Pavlovich", he is not a newcomer at all, in fact he is long time all-star Clips Nation contributor "ghost-ride".)

Chauncey Billups career stats (15 seasons)

PPG

APG

STLPG

MPG

PER

15.5

5.5

1.0

32.12

19.0

As mentioned in last year's exit interview for Chauncey Billups, in case there was any doubt about his importance to the Clipper's 2011-12 season, the team's record appeared to show he was one of the most valuable players as they were 14-6 to start the season with him, and 30-27 the rest of the way (without him), including the playoffs. The schedule of 20 games he played included 12 playoff teams (they went 8-4), and some of the most memorable home wins of the year, including the 1st match up with the Heat, Lakers, and Thunder. His veteran experience on the road likely made a difference as well, and helping with the team's first win in Utah since 2003 was certainly appreciated.

Even at the advanced age of 36, Billups figures to bring plenty to the table in 2012-13 when he's ready, including continued accuracy from deep (38.4% last year), high IQ/ decision making, defensive instincts, leadership, and clutch play. Though his 16.10 PER from last year was a few points off his career average, keep in mind he's more of a Wins Produced kind of player, with his career 119.8 number putting him 10th among active players, and 38th all time. All signs point to his knack for winning continuing on, as apparently he was 2nd on last year's team in terms of WP48 behind Chris Paul.

As Chauncey's 16th season approaches, everything comes down to how his body responds to the left Achilles tendon tear he sustained in Orlando on February 6th, just over eight months ago. So far we've heard some good rumblings about his rehab and early status, which is obviously a great sign. With the team projecting a possible late November comeback, that would put him at about nine and a half months recovery time.

Steve and I mulled over how many 35+ year old NBA players have come back from a torn Achilles tendon, and happened upon a good database of sports injuries and other information at Pro Sports Transactions. From this list, it appears that 21 NBA players have torn or ruptured their Achilles Tendon since 1990. On top of those 21, there were four more documented as "partial tears".

Before Billups' tear last season, you only have to go back a little over five years to find the most significant Clipper Achilles injury, when Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles in August, 2007. He was 28 at the time of the injury, and as many of us remember, wanted to make sure he came back by the end of the 07-08 season to prove his health to the NBA market. He came back in a little under eight months, which he probably never would have had it been anything other than a contract year, setting up his infamous exit.

So Chauncey will likely be one of the first 35+ NBA players to come back from a torn Achilles this season, but the good news is that this surgery has become more and more routine, and successful, providing you don't try to come back too early. Luckily, with the Clippers depth at guard he won't have to. He'll be able to train and push himself gradually, so that when he does come back he'll be able to help right away, and perhaps banish a lesser guard to the bench. Plus, if last year's first 20 games were any indication, the Clippers will be a markedly better team when he does come back and contribute, and I have to think he'll be one of the more important ingredients the Clippers need in order to build on the success of last season, and to have a chance at advancing further in the playoffs.

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