This past July, Chauncey Billups took his name out of consideration for the Cleveland Cavaliers' President of Basketball Operations, telling ESPN's The Undefeated that "it just wasn’t time." Billups resumed his role at ESPN as an NBA analyst and will be in the broadcast booth for the first time Wednesday when the Denver Nuggets host the Cleveland Cavaliers (8:30 p.m. ESPN).
Billups is happy in his current job and said he isn't actively soliciting front office opportunities across the league. But his aspiration to run an NBA franchise still burns strong.
"It's still a desire of mine," Billups told BSN Denver. "When it's time, it will happen."
The five-time All-Star, 2004 NBA Finals MVP and future Hall-of-Famer who said he's not interested in coaching, seems like a natural fit for any top basketball decision-making post. During his playing days, Billups boasted one of the league's top basketball IQ's and his clout amongst the rest of the NBA would likely go a long way when pitching marquee free agents.
Whenever the next front office opening comes about, Billups will listen.
"Most of the time when you get a job like that, it's because the situation is not good," Billups said. "If it was that good, that job wouldn't be open. Sometimes it's about fit but at the end of the day, there are only 30 of those jobs in the world. So if somebody's interested in you, you have to strongly consider that if its something that you're passionate about and it's something you want to do."
Until then Billups — who was raised in the Park Hill neighborhood of East Denver, went to the University of Colorado and still makes his home in Denver today — will continue in his role at ESPN. He said he's a fan of the present-day Nuggets and the franchise he spent a total of five seasons with throughout his 17-year career.
"The only thing they're missing to me is experience," Billups said. "It's just, you gotta go through it to get that."
The Nuggets boast their fair share of veterans. Richard Jefferson played in back-to-back NBA Finals before he was cut loose from Cleveland last summer and soon-after inked a contract with Denver. Paul Millsap is a four-time All-Star and Darrell Arthur and Mason Plumlee have both played roles on playoff teams throughout their respective careers.
Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris — who make up the Nuggets' young core — haven't. That's who Denver will lean on over its remaining 18 regular-season games. The Nuggets are trying to break a four-year playoff drought and enter Wednesday's matchup against Cleveland with a half-game lead on the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's final playoff spot.
After playing at an All-NBA level in February and posting averages of 21.9 points on 55.6 percent shooting from the field and 56.3 percent from three, 11.3 rebounds and nine assists for the month, Jokic has struggled offensively in March. Over his last three outings, Jokic is averaging just 7.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists. His offensive slump coincided with Paul Millsap returning to Denver's starting lineup following a left wrist injury that sidelined the four-time All-Star for 44 games.
"He makes the game so easy for everybody," Billups said of Jokic. "He can score. There's nothing that he can't do, except jump. I love watching him play. He's a basketball player. I'm a guy who puts a lot of stock in just basketball IQ. I love what he brings to the table."
Murray, another one of Denver's building blocks, might remind Billups a little bit of himself. The 21-year-old never shies away from the moment in a similar fashion to Billups. The latter eventually earned the nickname of Mr. Big Shot, for his late-game antics.
"He's fearless," Billups said. "He makes big shots. He takes them and doesn't back down from any challenge. He's not only a scorer. He's a shooter too. Some people are just scorers but they can't really shoot.
"Scoring is the best part of his game but that's tough because there's a lot of people that can score on the team and you're the guy responsible for getting them in position to get their shots off. It's a thin line and I think that's why it has been so important for him to play with a guy like Jokic and Millsap. Two guys who are facilitators which takes a lot of pressure off of him to make plays for everybody. He can just do what he does. And that's score."
Billups said he would have loved to play with a playmaker like Jokic, who he will watch in person Wednesday. He'll try and appreciate his unique style of play as a big man while managing color commentary duties for the first time in his career.
"I'm a prep guy anyway from my studio shows but it's a different kind of prep for this. I'm not nervous, I'm cool, man," Billups said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's always something I wanted to try. I'm excited about the opportunity."
Billup's hard-working nature means he isn't sweating his first appearance in the broadcast booth. It's hard to imagine Billups' nerves getting the better of him if he's running an NBA franchise at this point next season either.