Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, reportedly a candidate for head-coaching vacancies in Portland and Boston, is “definitely ready” to become a first-time head coach, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Sunday.
Billups, who earned most valuable player honors of the 2004 NBA Finals as Detroit’s clutch point guard, is currently in his first season as an assistant coach and has been lauded for his work helping Clippers All-Star Paul George become a better distributor en route to a career-high 5.2 assists per game.
“He’s come a long way in the last summer to now and he’s put the work in and now he’s going to have a chance to go to a team from [a] fresh start having his own blueprint on the team,” Lue said the day before the Clippers’ Game 4 matchup in the second round against Utah. “As far as being a coach, just his poise, I think he relates to the players. Him being able to communicate and being able to teach PG at the point guard position how to make plays, what he’s looking for in different situations, and he’s been working with PG all year.”
Billups was a five-time All-Star in 17 NBA seasons. When Billups played for the Clippers from 2011-13, he overlapped with Neil Olshey, the former Clippers executive who has served as Portland’s president of basketball operations since 2012. Portland All-Star guard Damian Lillard told the Athletic earlier this month that he would prefer that the Trail Blazers hire either Lakers assistant Jason Kidd or Billups. Kidd has since removed himself from consideration.
When Lue coached in Cleveland from 2016-18 he tried hiring Billups to his staff. The two met nearly 30 years ago, as teenagers at a summer tournament, and have been close friends since then. During Lue‘s and Billups’ playing careers, it was common for Billups to tag along to Kansas City to train with Lue in the offseason.
Billups was more interested in a front-office position at the time, however.
“I tease him all the time, I tell him he missed out on $15 million-18 million because he would have been a head coach for three to four years by now,” Lue said.
With the NBA on pause last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lue, then a Clippers assistant, temporarily moved into the Colorado home of Billups, who was working as a television analyst for the team and ESPN. For seven weeks, the two went through a coaching crash course that has paid dividends for the Clippers this season — and potentially another franchise next season.
“He had been working already this whole past year just learning [after timeouts], how to draw up on the board situations, and then when the break came with the COVID situation, I went to Denver [for] several weeks and we dove into it for four or five hours a day,” Lue said. “He’s really locked into drawing up plays, what plays to run, knowing the system, knowing the play calls, and he’s done a tremendous job.
“And now just seeing him on the floor coaching a five-on-five game, steadily improved and he’s done a great job. Just his poise, he’s able to hold guys accountable and the things he’s done for PG this year has been great reading pick-and-roll situations — what pass to make, what he’s looking for, what reads. Through the season, PG has gotten better and better.”
George’s 24.6% assist rate during the regular season was a career high. His 20.7% assist rate through 10 playoff games is nearly five percentage points higher than last season, and his turnover rate is also lower.
“He’s been a big influence on my game, and he’s been just a great fit and a champion, great person to talk to and have as a resource,” George said. “He’s been talking through a lot of me handling playing point and decision-making and tempo, pace, a lot of stuff from a point guard mindset and a point guard point of view, because I have been doing a lot of creating and ballhandling, and he’s helping me through that. A lot of credit goes to him for my progression.”