Tag: Chauncey Billups

DeAndre Jordan

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Los Angeles Clippers


Last season: The Clippers finished the regular season with a franchise best 56 wins, good enough for the fourth seed in the West and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs over the Memphis Grizzlies.

L.A. went up two games to none in the series, before Memphis came back to win the series in six. Vinny Del Negro wasn’t fired, because his contract was up at season’s end. But he wasn’t offered a new contract, either, and the way the Clippers exited the postseason was viewed as the reason why.

Chris Paul re-upped with a max contract as expected, but not before he was reportedly “angry” over the organization letting it leak that he was the one who forced the parting of ways with Del Negro — something we all knew, and didn’t need anyone on the inside to confirm publicly. All ended well, however, as the Clippers were able to pry Doc Rivers from the Celtics to patrol the sidelines this season.

Last season’s signature highlight: In the last moment before things fell apart in the playoffs, Chris Paul’s game-winner at the Game 2 buzzer sent the Clippers back to Memphis with a 2-0 lead in the series.

Key player changes: The Clippers turned over much of their bench from a season ago, which included trading the young and talented Eric Bledsoe to the Suns. But they’ve appeared to upgrade significantly overall, bolstering the team’s reserve unit for a longer postseason run this time around.

  • IN: J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley were acquired in the three-team trade that sent Bledsoe to Phoenix. Darren Collison, who had success backing up Paul in their days together in New Orleans was signed in free agency, as was former Bobcats big man Byron Mullens. Antawn Jamison was signed to a one-year free agent contract, as well. Reggie Bullock was selected with the 25th overall pick in this summer’s draft. Lou Amundson is in camp on a non-guaranteed deal.
  • OUT: Bledsoe via trade, Chauncey Billups and Ronny Turiaf via free agency, Lamar Odom via … (we’ll leave that alone), and Grant Hill via retirement.

Keys to the Clippers season:

1) DeAndre Jordan, defensive anchor: Doc Rivers has appointed Jordan as the one to singlehandedly transform the defensive unit by becoming its backbone. So far, Jordan is happily embracing that responsibility. During the preseason, Jordan is active, engaged, and energized on the defensive end of the floor — he’s talking nonstop, calling out the other team’s plays followed by how his guys are to adjust, and playing with a fire rarely seen in NBA big men consistently over the course of an 82-game season.

That’s going to be the question with Jordan — is he willing to sustain the effort? With Rivers as his head coach, it’s a safe bet that the answer might be “yes.” And if that’s the case, the Clippers will be an extremely difficult matchup all season long.

2) Creating chemistry: The Clippers have a lot of new pieces to fit together, along with a new (although well-respected and experienced) head coach trying to put them all into place. Some minor injuries have prevented Rivers from truly seeing what he has all at once, and keep in mind, there are guys who may be asked to play smaller yet more important roles this year than they have in seasons past. There haven’t been any issues with it in the preseason, of course, but Rivers knows there could be bumps in the road in that department in the future.

“I don’t know if you can have a chemistry test until you go through adversity, to be honest,” Rivers said before the Clippers faced the Suns during the preseason in Phoenix. “Every team in the league right now is getting along. Once the season starts and rotations are set, the amount of touches you get and all that stuff, then you’ll find out how much we all get along. I think we get along great, but no one knows [yet].”

3) Increased output from Blake Griffin and Chris Paul: Paul is the best point guard in the game, but he may need to increase his production for the Clippers to reach new heights. He averaged 16.9 points and 9.7 assists per game, but is capable of so much more offensively. Now granted, he has plenty of talent surrounding him, and if the ball movement is there and guys do what they’re supposed to, it may work out just fine. But Paul is a killer out there in terms of his competitiveness, and it may not be a bad idea to unleash that on the rest of the league a little more often this season.

As for Griffin, it’s hard to believe he’s entering just his fourth full season. He’s already a beast to deal with down low, but he could use a little more finesse to his game to avoid foul trouble and be able to create offense for himself a little bit more easily. He’s still developing, and if he can make some subtle changes to the way he plays around the basket (think less Anthony Mason and more Karl Malone), his averages of 18 and 8 could see a significant increase.

Why you should watch: Doc Rivers is known for his defensive coaching ability, and the Clippers were 15th out of 16 teams in terms of defensive efficiency in the playoffs. After the first two games against Memphis, they couldn’t slow them consistently or get stops when it mattered. Whether or not the transformation will occur defensively is going to be intriguing, to say the least.

Prediction: The top six teams in the West are all fairly close in terms of overall talent and projected ability to come out atop the Conference standings. But I’ll go ahead and buy into the preseason hype surrounding DeAndre Jordan, and Doc Rivers’ ability to make sure he sustains it all year long. Defense and consistent outside shooting were the major deficiencies this Clippers team was facing, and those needs appear to have been met during the offseason. A 60-win campaign is not out of reach if things fall into place, and a trip to the Western Conference Finals — at minimum — seems to be where the Clippers should land this season.

Brandon Jennings to miss start of season with tooth injury

Chauncey Billups, Brandon Jennings, Maurice Cheeks

It seems the Pistons suddenly have a bigger backcourt problem than deciding their starting shooting guard.

Combo guard Rodney Stuckey is already out with a broken finger. Though Maurice Cheeks hopes Stuckey will return in time for the Oct. 30 opener against the Wizards, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, that seems unlikely, even if just by a small margin.

But Stuckey is small potatoes compared to Brandon Jennings.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Stuckey could very well start at point guard, though as I said before, it seems unlikely he’s unavailable when the season begins.

Chauncey Billups is probably the Pistons’ starting point guard to open the season with either Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Kyle Singler starting at shooting guard. Or perhaps, Will Bynum starts at point guard with Billups remaining at shooting guard.

The Pistons hired Cheeks, in part, for his ability to handle guards, and now the first-year coach has his work cut out for him just to set a rotation. But if that’s where the issue ends, Detroit will likely came out OK.

More than most teams, the Pistons need to develop chemistry due their unconventional lineup. If these injuries delay that, the implications could be larger, perhaps enough to cost Detroit early games, and eventually, a playoff bid.

Jennings is a crucial piece piece to the Pistons’ season, and simply, it’s unlikely they can afford to miss him for long.

Pistons’ Stuckey breaks thumb, to have surgery Friday, out indefinitely

Rodney Stuckey

Just a day ago, Pistons coach Mo Cheeks was giving Chauncey Billups the start at the two and saying Rodney Stuckey would be getting the chance to steal that job. Stuckey had been the best of the three defensively, Cheeks said. Meanwhile rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was left without a chair when the music stopped. (Actually, he could get a lot of time on a chair on the bench. Got to work on my analogies.)

Now Stuckey is out of the picture for a while — he broke the thumb on his right hand when it got caught in his car door as it was closed, the team announced on Thursday. He will have surgery on Friday and there is no timeline for his return (they expect to know more after the operation).

This much we know: surgery to your shooting hand means you’re out for a while.

That’s not good for a Pistons team that needs outside shooting and good guard play to balance out a fantastic front line. While Brandon Jennings will do his thing — probably a step-back three — at the point this means the Pistons need to rely on the about-to-turn 37 Billups and the rookie Caldwell-Pope to eat up heavy minutes at the two guard. Maybe Will Bynum or Kyle Singler can get in the mix. Whatever happens it could get interesting.

Chauncey Billups gets seat in Pistons shooting guard musical chairs, leaves Kentavious Caldwell-Pope standing

Chauncey Billups
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Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said Rodney Stuckey and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were frontrunners to start at shooting guard. At least that’s how it was paraphrased in an MLive report.

Either something was lost in translation, or Cheeks had a change of heart.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

After naming Chauncey Billups the starter at shooting guard for the opener Tuesday morning, Cheeks was asked whether Rodney Stuckey and Caldwell-Pope would get opportunities.

“Probably Rodney will, but I don’t know if Kentavious will or not. I’m not sure,” Cheeks said. “I just don’t think he will be starting at this point. I reserve the right to change my mind, but as of this point, no. It would do him a disservice for me to say, ‘No, he’s not going to start,’ because he’s played as well as anybody in training camp.

“I’m a veteran’s coach. Guys that have been around get first crack at most things, but then they have to do the job.”

Billups started in a 91-69 win over Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday, and Stuckey and Caldwell-Pope came off the bench. The three combined to shoot 2-for-22, including 0-for-10 on 3-pointers.

Don’t read much into preseason games, especially ones against non-NBA teams. If you do, Kyle Singler (4-for-8, 1-for-3 on 3-pointers) jumps to the top of the conversation.

Singler would probably be a better choice than Stuckey, though. Stuckey can’t shoot from the perimeter, and with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond starting in the frontcourt, the Pistons need perimeter shooting.

If Caldwell-Pope, the No. 9 pick in the draft, isn’t ready, Billups should get the nod. Cheeks can keep cycling through his preferred options, but if Stuckey is the last man standing, Detroit’s halfcourt offense could get pretty ugly.

Stuckey can still play a role off the bench, and his attacking style fits better with Detroit’s reserves. He might even be better than Billups and Caldwell-Pope right now, but fit matters, too. Hopefully for the Pistons, Cheeks realizes that at some point during the next seven preseason games.

Pistons seemingly narrow starting shooting guard options to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey

The Pistons have essentially four starters locked: Brandon Jennings at point guard, Josh Smith at small forward, Greg Monroe at power forward and Andre Drummond at center.

That leaves shooting guard, where there seemed to be several contenders.

  • Chauncey Billups
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Kyle Singler
  • Rodney Stuckey

Now, halve that list, Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks indicates.

David Mayo of MLive:

Cheeks, one day after saying he would use multiple starters at shooting guard during preseason, said the ultimate decision probably comes down to Caldwell-Pope or seventh-year veteran Rodney Stuckey.

I didn’t consider Singler a strong contender, even though he started a large portion of last season at shooting guard.

But I’m surprised Billups isn’t more firmly in the mix. Really, I thought he’d initially win the job before eventually being replaced by Caldwell-Pope, the No. 9 pick in the 2013 Draft.

The Pistons aren’t afraid to start a rookie. Singler, Brandon Knight, Monroe and Jonas Jerebko have started in each of the last four seasons. I just figured it could shake Caldwell-Pope if he was thrust into the starting lineup and it turned out he wasn’t ready. Better to wait until he clearly deserves the job, because it’s much more palatable to go old to young rather than young to old.

Why Billups and Caldwell-Pope ahead of the other Singler and Stuckey? Billups and Caldwell-Pope both shoot well from beyond the arc, a skill the Pistons need, because they have no quality outside threats in their starting frontcourt. Smith, Monroe and Drummond all excel near the basket, and a good shooting off guard could help them get space in the paint.

That’s not Stuckey, who made 30.2 percent of his 3-pointers last season and is shooting 28.8 percent from beyond the arc for his career.

In a vacuum, Stuckey might be the best shooting guard Detroit has, but he wouldn’t be starting in a vacuum – and it’s still questionable whether he’s the best, anyway. He seems to be a poor fit, which should give the edge to Caldwell-Pope.

Then again, I never thought Stuckey would have gotten this far in the competition, so who knows?