Chauncey Billups calls out to teammates during his first game back from… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
As Chauncey Billups walked down the hallway at Staples Center toward the Clippers' locker room, sweat dripping off his bald head, he had a smile on his face.
Billups finally had been cleared to play, and now he was about to start at shooting guard against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night after coming back from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles' tendon.
"Yeah, I'm good and ready to play," Billups said before the game. "I'm excited about this."
Billups then headed into the locker to get ready for his first game since Feb. 6, the day he was injured in Orlando. He had surgery Feb. 15 and has been rehabilitating from his injury since then.
The 15-year veteran averaged 15 points and 4.0 assists in 20 games last season with the Clippers.
"I'm just proud of Chauncey because I've seen on a daily basis how hard he has worked to get back," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I'm happy for him, the team, myself, the coaching staff, the fans, the NBA, that we'll see him back on the court tonight."
Del Negro said Billups would have returned "about three weeks ago," but he suffered a calf injury and then tweaked his back during a practice session. He said they then decided to keep Billups out as a precautionary measure.
Billups has been involved in 15 to 20 sessions of practices and shoot-arounds and some live scrimmages.
"He's not in game condition yet, and he's not supposed to be yet," Del Negro said. "But the minutes he's going to play I think he'll be able to handle and if he can't, then he'll tell me."
In Wednesday's game, Billups scored seven points in 19 minutes of play.
Green becomes a reserve
With Billups back, Willie Green will go from starting to becoming the fifth guard on the team behind Chris Paul, Billups and reserves Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe.
Del Negro said he has talked to Green about his role.
"He understood the situation coming in, and he'll understand it now," Del Negro said. "When there is opportunity, we'll use him. But obviously we're very deep at that position."
Blake Griffin had the eighth-best-selling jersey in the NBA and Paul had the 10th-highest, according to the latest sales ranking by the NBA at the league's store. The Clippers were ranked eighth in team sales.