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Chauncey Billups, with new ESPN contract in hand, says Clippers depend too much on Chris Paul

Chris Paul, left, and Chauncey Billups sit on the Clippers bench in 2013.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Having been a free agent four times and switched teams seven times in his NBA career, Chauncey Billups knew what to value in a team as free agency approached in his second NBA life as a broadcaster.

Just three seasons removed from playing in the NBA, Billups values his role and team again enough to agree to a multi-year contract extension with ESPN that is to be announced Friday.

Billups swiftly and smoothly moved from a 17-year playing career to television work in 2014. He will wrap up his third ESPN season by working the upcoming Western Conference finals’ and NBA Finals’ pregame and halftime “NBA Countdown” shows.

“I’ve been on some very good teams in my basketball career and you want to keep pressing the envelope to see how good you can be,” Billups said. “I like what I do. When I’m up there, it’s my opportunity to teach the viewers how I saw the game and what I thought about the players. I never feel like it’s work.”

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Billups said he feels more free to share opinions than he did in postgame interviews with locker room and future matchup repercussions at stake. That includes talking about the state of one of his former teams, the Clippers, and how they have not won more than one playoff series in any of the last six postseasons. That is an era that started when Billups and Chris Paul joined Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

“This isn’t a jab at anyone but they just don’t have enough guys who can make plays late in games,” Billups said. “They depend too much on Chris. That year (2011-12), we had that. We would’ve been a tough out.”

Instead, Billups suffered a season-ending Achilles tear when the Clippers were 15-8. He only played 42 games over two Clippers seasons.

Billups laments the health issues but said he is proud that he helped change the Clippers culture. Now he sees a franchise that needs a change, albeit not a wholesale one.

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“You’re the Clippers and they’ve had so many down years that you don’t want to blow it up,” Billups said. “When you reshuffle and retool, you don’t go from winning 51 to back to .500. You do things to get back to 55 wins. They need more athleticism on the wing. They need a three who can defend, score and knock down shots because Chris is going to be in a lot of pick-and-rolls.”

The Clippers might not have had much of a championship chance anyway this season. Billups is sure that he will make his Denver-to-Bristol commute in June for a third consecutive Cleveland-Golden State NBA Finals.

“I don’t see any challenges coming from any other teams,” Billups said. “At the end of the day, the Warriors and Cavs are just better. I think it’ll be a seven-game series. You always have to be a little bit lucky to win a championship. The Cavs were fortunate that Draymond [Green] didn’t play Game 5 and rode that momentum. The year before, the Warriors were fortunate that Kyrie Irving got hurt.

“I like Cleveland to win. They’ve got more shooters. They played a nine-man rotation in the last series and there’s only one guy who can’t make a three and that’s Tristan Thompson, but what he does is invaluable. LeBron [James] is still the best player in the world and now you’ve got guys around him knocking down shots.”

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