Chauncey Billups may not be done playing in the NBA. Even though the veteran point guard is 37 years old and has been in the league for 17 seasons, he may continue his playing career in the 2014-15 season.
While it’s true that Billups has a number of coaching, front office and media opportunities available to him, he hasn’t decided if he wants to retire and walk away from the game just yet. He’s currently weighing his options and trying to decide what’s next for him.
“Obviously, I have several options; I have some front office opportunities, some coaching opportunities, some media opportunities and also some playing opportunities,” Billups told Basketball Insiders. “There’s a lot going on right now.”
Playing is certainly still an option for Billups, who recently became an unrestricted free agent when the Detroit Pistons decided not to pick up their $2.5 million team option on his contract. Billups is currently training with Joe Abunassar at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, preparing himself in the event that he continues playing. He believes he can still help a team; however, Billups made it clear that he’ll only resume his career if the right situation presents itself. In other words, he’ll only delay his retirement if a championship-caliber team comes calling and requires his services.
“As far as me playing, I feel really good right now for the first time in a long time – in two or three years,” Billups said. “I know that in the right situation, I can really help a team win. But it would take the right situation. I’m not going to play just to play. I have nothing left to prove and I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish playing basketball, so it would take the right situation for me to play.
“Of course, winning [is the biggest factor]. I’ve always considered myself to be a winner. I want to play for something; I don’t just want to play, I want to play to win. That’s the number one criteria – a team that has championship aspirations. And not just a team that’s saying it, but a team that could possibly do it. As far as my role on the team, I’m going to be 38 years old, so I’m not going to say I need to be a starter or I need to play this amount of minutes or anything. Those are things you kind of carve your way through as camp and the season go on. We would work our way through that and I certainly have no demands on that. I just know that with my health and what I can do, I’ll be able to carve my niche and help, that’s for sure.”
Billups has been training with Abunassar for his entire career, and the Impact Basketball trainer says that the point guard is in terrific shape and looking fantastic in workouts.
“This is the best I’ve seen him since his string of years where he was a perennial All-Star,” Abunassar said. “He looks very good. … He started training really when he got healthy at Detroit. We had an approach at the end of the season that whether he played at all this year, he was going to get himself ready to go and back in shape once his knee healed after the little scope procedure. So really since March he’s been working hard and then when the summer started, he didn’t stop. He’s brought himself down five or six pounds already, which is tremendous for the end of June and early July. One of our philosophies this summer was for him to play a lot, just simplify because he hasn’t played a lot in recent seasons. So while he’s been at home in Denver, he plays up at Colorado with the college kids and he’s been playing a lot and working out a lot. We had our plan started back in March and he’s been carrying it through. This is early for him to be training because a lot of the years he played in the Conference Finals and he needed some time off in the summer, but this year we were able to start earlier. He looks really good. He was beating up on the young guys yesterday, which is great for us and great for him. He’s enjoying that. He looks good, so we’re in a great rhythm right now.”
Billups says that he feels incredible, which is the most important thing to him whether he’s playing in the NBA or not. He tore his left Achilles tendon in 2012 and had a knee injury that required a minor surgery last season, but he’s completely healthy now and feeling better than he has in a long time. The fact that Billups has played so few minutes over the last few seasons could extend his career, since he has been able to rest his body and not endure much wear-and-tear recently.
“The last time that I felt this good was before the Achilles injury, so it’s obviously been awhile,” Billups said. “I feel really good. I had a little knee issue last year, but I got that cleaned up. That was really bugging me for awhile, but that’s behind me now. I really haven’t played in awhile – two or three years – I haven’t played a lot and in my eyes that’s a positive because I feel fresh and I feel good. If I play, that’s fine. If I don’t, that’s fine too. I’m just glad that I feel really good. That’s the most important thing – my health and just feeling good.”
“He had a couple of years due to injury that he didn’t play a lot of minutes, which I think helps him,” Abunassar said. “It’s like buying a car and then you let it sit for a while; it’s still a new car. You didn’t drive it for two years, you’re not eating it up. I think it’s very similar to that. I think it that helps him a lot that he hasn’t had much wear-and-tear the last two years, and he’s got a lot of freshness in his legs right now because of that.”
There are a number of talented teams that could use a reserve point guard, such as the Miami HEAT with Mario Chalmers hitting free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder with Derek Fisher retiring, the San Antonio Spurs with Patty Mills hitting free agency, the Chicago Bulls with D.J. Augustin hitting free agency and the Brooklyn Nets with Shaun Livingston leaving as a free agent.
Abunassar is confident that Billups can still help a team, if continuing his playing career is something that he wants to do.
“I think people talk about his leadership and everything off of the floor and what he does for a locker room, but I’ll tell you what, he can play and I think he can provide unbelievably good minutes at a high level for somebody,” Abunassar said. “I’ve been with him for his whole career so as I see all of these young guards and these new guards and then I watch him play for five minutes, I’m thinking, ‘My god, this is a whole ‘nother level.’ To put a guy like that on your roster when you’re trying to get over the hump, I think he provides a tremendous amount of help.
“One thing about Chauncey is he’s not just a leader vocally, he’s a leader on the floor because he has the ball in his hands. Even yesterday, he was scrimmaging with Austin Daye and some of the younger guys, and whenever he plays in our gym he changes the whole scope of the offense. He changes the whole scope of who’s rotating, he’s moving guys and running things. His passing and his timing is just at such a different level than any of the young guys that we work with. It’s really special. I think he provides leadership and I think he provides a great player. He hasn’t played the last couple of years, so people think of Chauncey in a suit a lot and talk about how he’s a great leader. We know that he can coach, that he can be a front office guy and that he can do broadcasting or whatever he wants – luckily he’s in a position where he has all of that available to him – but I just think he’s still a very good basketball player.”
Whenever Billups’ playing career does come to an end, he feels that he’ll either work in a front office or in a broadcast booth. He has been offered coaching opportunities (reportedly as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves under Flip Saunders), but he’s not sure that coaching is for him.
“I think it’ll be one of two things, it’s either front office or TV,” Billups said when asked about his post-playing career. “I love broadcasting; I’ve done a little bit of it and I really, really enjoyed that. And if I stayed in the game, I always felt like my best role would be in a front office. I know a lot of people think of me and coaching, and I’m sure that I could coach and at some point probably be a pretty good coach, but we’ll just have to see. Every option is open.”
A number of teams have expressed interest in Billups and he’s keeping his options open, but it remains to be seen what’s next for the five-time All-Star.
Check out Basketball Insiders’ Free Agency Diary
For all of the latest NBA news and rumors related to free agency, be sure to keep checking Basketball Insiders’ free agency diary. We’re updating it whenever a rumor or report surfaces, and it should be your free agency headquarters.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.