Having Chauncey Billups back in the starting lineup for the Clippers on Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers meant a lot to the team in many ways.
Billups brings the Clippers championship experience. He won a title with the Detroit Pistons over the Lakers in 2004, when Billups was named the Finals most valuable player.
"He's a little bit older now," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said about the 36-year-old Billups. "He's missed most of last season and a lot of this season, so that's not as easy to do. We still expect a lot from him with his leadership. He can make shots, obviously. He's another guy that can make plays."
Billups had missed the last eight games with a strained right groin. He has played in just 21 games this season and is expected to play in a back-to-back game Wednesday night in Sacramento.
Del Negro said the plan is to play Billups about 20 minutes per game.
"He knows how to play and we have to get him into game condition as quick as possible," Del Negro said. "He gives us another dimension out there making plays off the dribble, shooting the basketball. But he's got to get out there and get his rhythm and chemistry with the guys."
Bledsoe getting legs back
In the last two games, Eric Bledsoe has shown signs of being the energetic player the Clippers saw earlier this season.
"He changes the complexion of the game with his speed," Del Negro said. "It's just the versatility that he brings that is of value. We can't always use it depending on matchups. But he's been fantastic for us since he's been healthy."
Bledsoe had suffered a sore left calf muscle that kept out of five games. He seems to be just now getting his legs back strong again.
"He gives us an edge to us out there defensively and the speed he plays with," Del Negro said. "We knew that was going to be a factor for us. I feel he's back playing with a lot of confidence. He knows his energy and the way he plays is very important, especially with that second unit or if he's out there with Chris [Paul], in how he uses his athleticism to pressure the basketball defensively."