In a way, the Clippers Game one win over the Memphis Grizzlies contained a sliver of hope for the L.A Lakers–next season.
It’s been two years since Chauncey “B-B-B-Big Shot” Billups played in a playoff game. That’s because two months into his lockout-shortened first season with the Clippers, he tore his Achilles tendon.
Billups was one year older than Kobe Bryant currently is. On February 6, two days after the one year anniversary of his injury, Billups returned to the Clippers lineup, though various injuries kept him out of the lineup until Tuesday.
Eric Bledsoe is Baby LeBron, Jamal Crawford is the four-point shot producer and Chris Paul is the MVP candidate. But Billups is a playoff virtuoso and he's Paul's sherpa on the rocky NBA playoff terrain. For the thrill seekers who embark on high-altitude mountain climbing expeditions, sherpas are the mountaineering gurus who guide them up the rocky terrain with their expertise and experience. On Paul's trek up the NBA's playoff Everest, Billups, the 2004 NBA Finals MVP, is leading the Clip on a path he's familiar with.
Billups advanced to at least the Conference Finals in seven straight seasons including his first one as a Denver Nugget. He was the missing ingredient for Anthony, who hasn’t left the first round since the 2009 playoffs and was unable to advance out of the opening round with Allen Iverson teaching him the dark ways of volume chucking for three seasons.
In his first playoff game in two years, Billups scored a modest 14 points from the right wing and the free throw line, but he inflicted his damage with arguably the best perimeter defender in the league sticking him.
His impact will become more conspicuous once the Clippers are eventually forced to grind it out in a tight fourth quarter contest or if they advance past Memphis. The Grizzlies are just the base of the mountain. The opportunities to win a title get slimmer then the oxygen at 30,000 feet past the second round, which the Clippers have never done in the L.A. era.
Mr. Big Shot doesn’t just come through in the postseason. He’s also made the sixth most treys in NBA history, is seventh in three-point percentage and unlike Bledsoe, a career 30 percent marksman behind the arc, he can spread the defense with his three-point shooting.
Kenyon Martin tried to orchestrate the chorus of detractors who doubted the Clippers’ playoff makeup by taking a shot at their style of play that rang from coast to coast.
“They can’t do it in the playoffs, so it doesn’t matter,” Martin told ESPN LA. “Regular season, it’s all up-and-down. We know how the game goes in the regular season.”
However, he should know better. The 36-year-old guard makes the Clippers backcourt more intimidating, makes them deeper and has been the x-factor at each of his previous stops. He’s the Clippers answer to Kidd in New York — aka the magical, wily veteran who brings gravitas into the locker room — in an unconventional lineup featuring a pair of point guards.
Sure, it's cliche, but Billups' playoff magic has rubbed off before. His presence plays a major role in the Clippers' plans to shock the establishment.