Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks have until Friday to exercise their $14.2 million team option on point guard Chauncey Billups, but after meeting with president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni Monday Billups said he wasn’t sure what his future holds.
“We’ll all know shortly,” Billups said. “I’m hoping to be back. I want to be back. I loved being a Knick this year, it was a great time. I would love to be a part of bringing championship-caliber basketball back to the city, and hopefully I’ll have that opportunity.”
Billups said he planned to remain in touch with his agent, Andy Miller, “the next few days” to learn his fate.
Billups missed the final three games of the series against the Boston Celtics after straining his left knee in the final minute of Game 1.
The Knicks could opt to buy him out for $3.8 million, leaving them with $8-$10 million to spend. Billups said he understands that it’s a “business” and he wouldn’t be offended if the Knicks chose that route.
“Nah, I wouldn’t take it personally,” he said. “I’m gonna play some good years of basketball, man. Wherever I’m at. Hopefully it’s here though.”
He added: “If it’s a buyout situation, you all know what that buyout number is, and I’ll just be a free agent and move forward from there. That’s just kind of where it stands right now. Hopefully I won’t have to be a free agent.”
Both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire said Monday they hoped Billups, 34, would return next season.
“I’ve been with Chauncey for quite a while now,” Anthony said. “He’s a guy who, everybody knows what he brings to the table when he’s healthy, when he’s playing. Winner, leader. A veteran. A guy that a lot of people on this team look up to.”
The Knicks could opt to keep Billups for one season to tutor Toney Douglas and then make a play for either Chris Paul or Deron Williams, both of whom become free agents in 2012.
“I think if Chaucney’s not back — and again I think he will be – but if he’s not back, again I have high confidence in Mr. Walsh to make the right decision to make the team better than what it was this year,” Stoudemire said.
Walsh said this past weekend that Billups’ recent rash of injuries would not impact his long-term thinking about the player.
Billups said he “probably wouldn’t have” been able to play even if the series had gone to seven games.
Now he’s looking at a couple weeks of rehab.
“Two or three weeks,” he said. “Just getting basic treatment – ice and stim. Nothing major. It just needed time. And obviously in this series I didn’t have a lot of time, I didn’t have time to get better. But it’s nothing major at all.”
Billups said if he returns to the Knicks he would like to see them add some tough, defensive-minded bigs and a shooter or two.
“Get some bigs, at least definitely one big who can rebound and block shots and control the paint for us,” he said. “Keep Amar’e from playing centers and getting into early foul trouble and getting worn down a lot. That’s probably one of our biggest needs. We weren’t the greatest rebounding team this season.”
The Knicks also lacked a knock-down shooter after Danilo Gallinari was dealt in the deal for Billups and Anthony. Roger Mason, pressed into service because of the injury to Billups and the ineffectiveness of rookie Landry Fields, missed three 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter of Game 4.
“You could never have too many shooters, so that’d be cool, too,” he said. “But if I’m a part of this thing and I’m building I will say that a big, for sure, and just some tough guys. Guys who when you talk about being a tough, defensive minded team, that just aren’t going to give way.”
Wherever he plays next season, Billups said he plans to play at 210 pounds instead of 215.
He has no doubt that his knee will recover and he’ll be ready to contribute next season and beyond.
“My body has been great,” he said. “I tell people I’m 34, not 39. My first five years I didn’t play much anyway, unfortunately. But my body’s fine. The last 10 years I’ve played the same way. My weight doesn’t fluctuate. I’m in great condition. My body’s great.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.