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Los Angeles ClippersÂ guardÂ Chauncey BillupsÂ suffered a torn left Achilles tendon Monday night and will miss the remainder of the season, the team announced Tuesday.
“I feel sick for him,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday when reached on his cell phone by ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. “He’s such a pro. After the game last night it was bittersweet. Everyone was just quiet in the locker room, quiet on the plane. People know how much Chauncey means to us — his character, his leadership. Not only his abilty to play at a high level, but his character and the intagibles he brings. That’s why we brought him here. I just feel sick for him.”
Billups suffered the injury with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 107-102 overtime victory over theÂ Orlando MagicÂ on Monday. An MRI on the tendon Tuesday in Cleveland revealed the severity of the injury.
Billups will return to Los Angeles on Thursday for further evaluation. The Clippers say a date for surgery hasn’t been determined.
Midway through the fourth quarter against Orlando, Billups fell to the ground untouched after he tried to change direction following a missed three-point attempt. Unable to put any pressure on the foot, he was helped off the court by his teammates.
“It’s a tough one,” Del Negro said. “He was just getting everything figured out. He was playing great. He’d just hit three 3s in a row, then he turns the wrong way running back down the court.
“It’s tough, but we’re going to do whatever we can as a team and organization to move forward.”
The Clippers’ locker room after the game was somber and Clippers guardÂ Chris PaulÂ was emotional as he talked about the importance of Billups to the team.
“He’s the best guard I’ve ever started with in the backcourt since I’ve been in the NBA,” Paul said. “I trust him with anything, and that’s not just on the court. We need him, no question.”
Billups was claimed off waivers by the Clippers on Dec. 13, a day before Paul was traded to the Clippers, helping to reshape the image of the Clippers over a 48-hour time span this offseason.
TheÂ New York KnicksÂ waived Billups on Dec. 11 under the NBA’s new amnesty clause. Billups was under contract for $14.2 million. The Clippers’ winning bid to land Billups in the waiver auction was just over $2 million, meaning that the Knicks still have to pay out the remaining balance of nearly $12 million from Billups’ salary this season.
Billups, who averaged 14.9 points and 4.0 assists in 20 starts for the Clippers this season, missed two games with a strained right groin earlier this season.Â Randy FoyeÂ is expected to take Billups’ place in the starting lineup withÂ Mo Williams, who is averaging 14.8 points and 3.8 assists, continuing to come off the bench in his current sixth man role.
Foye has already started six games this season while filling in for both Billups and Paul and is averaging 7.2 points and 2.1 assists in 20 minutes per game.
“It’s something where we have to get everybody’s mindset back up, but it’s a tough blow for us no question,” Del Negro said. “We dont’ have a choice but to move on and figure out how to win tommorrow. You just have to do what you can, understand this is the situation and the adversity that you have to deal with. No one is going to feel sorry for us.”
Given Billups’ age (35), the injury might be more than just season-ending for the 15-year veteran who has played on seven teams. He had his greatest success during six seasons with theDetroit PistonsÂ from 2002-2008 where he won the 2004 NBA Finals MVP and led the Pistons to back-to-back Finals and six straight conference finals appearances. If the injury does end Billups’ career, it would be eerily similar to the way another great Pistons guard ended his career. Isiah Thomas’ 13-year career came to an end when he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against the Magic 18 years ago.
Before his injury, Billups helped recruit his former teammate forwardÂ Kenyon MartinÂ to sign with the Clippers. Martin could make his debut for the Clippers on Wednesday after joining the team in Orlando.
The Clippers could also be in the market for another former Billups teammate to fill his void as the Clippers are one of several teams in the market to sign veteran swingmanÂ J.R. Smith. Smith is currently leading the Chinese Basketball Association in scoring (35.4 points per game) and would be eligible to sign with an NBA team once his Zhejiang club finishes its season and he is cleared by FIBA this month.
On Tuesday, the Clippers waived forwardÂ Solomon Jones, bringing their roster down to 14 and creating some flexibility if the Clippers do decide to sign another player.
WRITTEN BY Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press was used in this report & FULL STORY HERE
Follow Arash Markazi on Twitter:Â @ArashMarkazi