Billups Won't Call It a Contract Year but Wants to Retire With Nuggets
Chauncey Billups insists nothing like that will happen next season with him.
Billups will earn $13.15 million in 2010-11 with Denver. He's due to make $14.2 million in 2011-12, but the Nuggets would be on the hook for only $3.7 million if they waive him by June 20, 2011.
Billups has played in five straight NBA All-Star Games but will turn 34 in September. It remains to be seen how the Nuggets, in these economically tough times, will feel about wanting to pay a 35-year-old point guard so much money the season after next.
"I'm not really playing with that,'' Billups said in an interview with FanHouse on Tuesday about whether he's looking at next season as playing for a contract. "I won't do that. That creates all kinds of other things. I'm just going to play and do what I do. However the chips fall they may.''
Billups, a Denver native who is on his second stint with the team and helped lead the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals in May 2009 after his November 2008 acquisition from Detroit, insists he wants to finish his career with Denver.
"I want to be a Nugget until I'm done playing,'' Billups said. "There's no question about it. Just play ball, and let it happen (whatever might transpire with his contract). I'm not going to worry about all of that.''
One thing Billups is thinking about is hopefully having star Denver forward Carmelo Anthony alongside him in 2011-12. Anthony could opt out of his contract next summer and become a free agent, although such a move would be risky since it's uncertain what the values of maximum contracts would be under a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Nuggets have offered a three-year extension to Anthony for more than $60 million, which would take him through the 2014-15 season. Before the extension was offered, but knowing it obviously would come, Anthony told FanHouse earlier this month he might wait until possibly signing to see what sorts of moves the Nuggets make to remain among the elite in the West.
Interestingly, the last day Anthony could sign an extension before he has to make a decision on opting out is June 30, 2011. That's 10 days after the Nuggets have to make a call on Billups.
"I'm hoping like crazy that he stays,'' Billups said of wanting Anthony to sign the extension. "That's the franchise.''
Billups said he hasn't talked to Anthony about the extension offer and doesn't know what's on his mind. But he said he plans to court Anthony to stay.
"Absolutely,'' Billups said. "I have to try to do that.''
Perhaps Anthony will end up trying to convince Nuggets brass that Billups needs to be retained. Anthony could not be reached Tuesday to comment on the situation.
The Nuggets, upset in the first round of the playoffs last spring by Utah, are a team with plenty of questions, especially when one looks past next season. There's no certainty Anthony and Billups still will be around in 2011-12, and forward Kenyon Martin and guard J.R. Smith have contracts that expire next summer. Nuggets coach George Karl, who missed the final month and a half of last season, due to a form of throat cancer but has vowed to return, also is entering the final season of his contract.
For the more immediate future, Nuggets vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman stressed the Nuggets need to get bigger. The Nuggets came up short when trying to make a deal to get into last Thursday's draft.
"I think it's something that we need to do,'' Chapman said of getting inside help this offseason. "We do feel we need to find a player, maybe two, that can help.''
Not only are the Nuggets already flimsy in the post, but big men Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin are both coming off knee surgery. The Nuggets announced Andersen's surgery on his right knee about a month ago, but Martin's surgery didn't come to light until Andersen revealed the work on Martin's knee in an interview that aired last Saturday on Denver's KDVR-TV.
Two days later, the Denver Post cited an unnamed source as saying Martin might not be ready for training camp, which begins Sept. 25. Billups, who said Martin's surgery on his left knee was a "couple of weeks" ago, said he agrees with Chapman the Nuggets must get bigger.
"I would concur with that just because we've got two guys who are hurt, and don't know when they're going to be back, in Kenyon and (Andersen),'' Billups said. "That's two of our top three bigs. We don't know when they're going to come back all the way fully 100 percent healthy. Of course, we're going to need some help."
Billups, who said he spoke to Martin recently and said he's "doing good,'' said he "would love to have'' both Martin and Andersen at full strength for the start of next season. But he doesn't want either to rush it.
"Whenever they come back, I just want them healthy,'' Billups said. "I want the regular 'Birdman' back and K-Mart from the first part of the season back. If we can get back to that, we'll be doing good.''
Martin was regularly having games with double figures in points and rebounds last season. But then he missed 18 late-season games due to tendinitis in his knee before returning for the Nuggets' final three regular-season games and for the entire 4-2 playoff loss to the Jazz.
Of course, Martin's health will be moot for Denver if he's soon traded. With Martin a much more attractive piece due to his expiring $16.55 million contract, the Nuggets are expected to be listening to offers.
While the Nuggets are busy getting their roster in order this summer, Billups will be competing for Team USA. With a number of top players wavering, Billups reiterated he's in for the long haul and very much wants to be playing in two months at the World Championships in Turkey.
"I'm excited,'' Billups said. "I'm always excited to have the opportunity to represent my country.''
Billups believes he has a good shot of making Team USA's final roster, and he'll get no argument from Jerry Colangelo. The USA Basketball chairman, who said Billups can provide the team with a veteran point guard similar to Jason Kidd in the 2008 Olympics, recently said Billups is indeed a very strong candidate to make the team.
How good of a shot Billups has of the Nuggets keeping him for big bucks in 2011-12 remains to be seen. But, for now, that's hardly at the forefront of his thoughts.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson