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Clippers unite to fill Billups void, but not all can be replaced

All are on board to step up and not let the responsibility fall on one or two players as injured Billups is out for season. But leadership and experience of 'Mr. Big Shot' will be hard to go without.

February 08, 2012|By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times
  • Chris Paul, left, talks to Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro and teammate Blake Griffin during a game against Portland on Jan. 1. The Clippers are looking for ways to be more productive as a team in the wake of Chauncey Billups' season-ending injury.
Chris Paul, left, talks to Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro and teammate Blake… (Bret Hartman / Associated…)

Reporting from Cleveland — —

They all got together as a group, gathering to deal with the devastating news that their friend and teammate Chauncey Billups will miss the rest of the season because of a torn left Achilles' tendon. All of the Clippers kept telling one another that they must fill that void as one.

It's not about any single player doing more, they said. It's not about All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin taking on bigger responsibilities, or about Mo Williams trying to be more productive, they contend.

"This is something that me and Blake and all of us have talked about is that [because of] what happened to Chauncey, obviously guys are going to have to step up," Paul said. "But it just means that everybody has to do a little bit more. Not just one or two people, but everybody."

However, there are some things Billups provided that just can't be duplicated.

He's a veteran presence with 15 years in the NBA. He's a calming influence. He has the ability to knock down big shots, thus his nickname, "Mr. Big Shot." He's a leader and he has the ability to play both shooting and point guard.

"When Chauncey was out earlier, I didn't try to do any more," Griffin said about Billups' missing two games because of a strained right groin. "I don't think anybody should try to do that. We're comfortable with Mo, so we should be all right."

Williams had an MRI exam Tuesday on his right foot and left knee Tuesday because of an injury he suffered during Monday night's game in Orlando. Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said that both exams were negative and that Williams "is good" to play Wednesday night against the Cavaliers.

Del Negro said that Williams will come off the bench to continue to provide the Clippers with scoring punch, and that Randy Foye will start at shooting guard in place of Billups.

Foye has struggled this season, averaging only 7.3 points on 39.3% shooting in 20 minutes per game. But he started 24 out of the 63 games he played in last season for the Clippers and now he figures to get a lot more playing time.

With Billups out, small forward Ryan Gomes could also get additional court time. Gomes has averaged three points per game this season in 16 minutes a game.

But the frontcourt rotation figures to change once newly signed free-agent power forward Kenyon Martin is ready to play. Martin is expected to back up Griffin, and the former Nugget's mid-range shot should help the Clippers' bench production. Last season at Denver, Martin averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26 minutes a game.

"Chauncey's leadership and know-how and veteran savvy, you can't replace that," Williams said. "We all come in and maybe things look a little different, but at the same time we'll have 'Big Shot's' voice. I think that's more impactful than what people will give him credit for."

The Clippers on Tuesday waived forward Solomon Jones, trimming their roster down to 14 players.

That gives the Clippers room to sign a free agent — perhaps someone like former Denver guard J.R. Smith once he becomes eligible to play in the NBA after the season is over for his Zhejiang Golden Bulls team in the Chinese Basketball Assn.

"We're trying to continually improve the team," Del Negro said.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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