Billups Unwavering in Commitment to Team USA
With many top players, including teammate Carmelo Anthony, wavering about whether they want to play in the World Championships this summer in Turkey, Billups made it clear Tuesday his commitment to Team USA is ironclad.
"The only thing that can change is that they don't want me on the team,'' Billups, whose Nuggets trail Utah 3-1 in a West first-round series, said in an interview with FanHouse. "If they are going to commit to me, I'm going to commit to them. ... I would love to be [in Turkey].''
As first reported by FanHouse in February, Billups, 33, was a late name rounded up for Team USA's working roster (then at 27 players and now at 32) for the World Championships and the 2012 Olympics because USA Basketball eyed him as a veteran point guard who possibly could fill the void left when Jason Kidd retired from international competition.
Billups, then with Detroit, had been with Team USA for the 2007 Olympic qualifying tournament. But he dropped out of consideration for the 2008 Olympic team due to what he called a "personal situation.''
Billups knows this is his last chance to win a gold medal in a major international tournament. In addition to stressing his commitment is firm for the World Championships, he also wants to play in the 2012 Olympics in London, when he would be 35.
"I'm basically committed for the whole process, man,'' said Billups said. "It's an honor for me. I'm committed all the way through as long as they want my services.''
Players wavering for the Worlds include 2008 Olympic holdovers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Anthony, who told FanHouse earlier this month he might not play due to getting married July 10 after he previously had told USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo he would play in Turkey.
Team USA is headlined at point guard by Utah's Deron Williams and New Orleans' Chris Paul, who recently have reaffirmed their commitments. Those battling Billups for a likely third point-guard spot will be Chicago's Derrick Rose, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Boston's Rajon Rondo, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans and Golden State's Stephen Curry, but they're all young players who wouldn't provide the veteran influence Kidd had with Team USA.
Meanwhile, Billups might not mind having Williams as a teammate. Heading into Wednesday's Game 5 at the Pepsi Center, Williams is averaging 26.8 points and 12.8 assists in the series to 17.8 and 6.5 for Billups.
But Billups was with one of only eight teams to have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. His Pistons stormed back to win a 2003 East first-round series over the Orlando Magic.
"I don't think it's magic,'' Billups, pun not intended, told reporters earlier Tuesday. "I think it's effort and determination. There's a lot of teams in this situation, being down 3-1, that feel like it's over. We don't feel that way. I most certainly don't feel that way because I've been there before, and come out on the winning side.''
When the Pistons fell behind 3-1 seven years ago, one could say Billups took matters into his own hands. He averaged 30.7 points in Detroit's final three wins, including 40 in Game 6 and 37 in Game 7.
So is this another reason why Billups might look to score more now for the Nuggets? One reason might be Anthony, who had 39 points in Game 4 while no other Denver player scored more than 14, having said after that game he needs help.
"I think everybody has to play better for us to win,'' Billups said.
But regardless of what happens to Denver's season, Billups has made it clear he's not wavering in his commitment to Team USA.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson