Last season, for the first time ever, we saw the Clippers threaten to overshadow the Lakers as the best team in Los Angeles.  The addition of Chris Paul gave Blake Griffin and company an elite floor leader to usher in a new era of playoff basketball, and gave Clippers fans reason to believe in their team as possible contenders.  They fell short of that goal in postseason play, but Chauncey Billups believes the franchise he adopted put itself in the discussion with its cross-arena rival.  Read more after the jump.

Shay Marie x Sabrina B.

“I think last year we made a huge step in even trying to have a rivalry with that team,” Billups said. “Of course, over time, it’s not been a rivalry, history doesn’t tell you that, but expectations of talent, upgrades around here. It’s a lot different around here now. Last year we had some great games with them, some high-spirited games with them, and I expect the same thing this year.”

Though the Clippers lost in the second round last season, Billups believes the team grew up a lot by going through a tough first-round series with the Memphis Grizzlies and even through losing to the San Antonio Spurs.

“I thought the Memphis series, for our team, our young guys grew up a lot that series, to be honest with you,” said Billups. “Obviously, it was a Game 7 situation on the road and it could have gone either way. We could have lost that series, but the guts, man, and the pride, and the toughness that the guys showed really impressed me. I think that it surprised some of our guys too, and it was just great. I thought it was just great. We grew up a lot. Then you go play a team like San Antonio, and they basically ran through us, man, and I think it all had to do with, mentally, just the small, little detailed things that cause a big deal in a playoff series that we never knew about as a team.