Clippers claim Billups off waivers

The Los Angeles Clippers claimed Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers, just hours after they backed out of trade talks with the NBA for New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Billups, 35, gives the young Clippers another veteran leader. The team also signed forward Caron Butler to a three-year, $24 million contract in free agency. Also Monday, the Clippers matched the Golden State Warriors’ four-year, $43 million offer sheet to restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, allowing them to keep the young center. The offer sheet included a 15 percent trade kicker.

“DeAndre is very excited to remain with the Clippers,” said Jordan’s agent, Greg Lawrence. “The team has a bright future, and clearly DeAndre is poised to be a big part of it.”

The New York Knicks had used their amnesty clause on Billups to clear salary-cap room to acquire Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler. Under terms of the league’s amnesty police, any team under the salary cap can put bid on Billups. The bid will offset part of the $14.2 million the Knicks owe Billups in the final year of his contract.

The Clippers can’t trade Billups this season.

Billups had preferred to enter free agency, which would have allowed him to sign with either the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat. Billups told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday that he wanted the freedom of free agency to choose his team, and warned he could become a disruptive force if a team claimed him in the waiver process. Still, teams believed he was bluffing, that he simply didn’t have that kind of behavior in him.

[ Related: NBA free agency and transaction tracker ]

“After a while, you just kind of get taken advantage of in these situations,” Billups said on Saturday. “I’ve been known as a leader – and I am a leader – but a leader can be as disruptive as he can be productive, especially when you carry a strong voice and people rally around you. This is about me now. This is about me, and teams should know that right now.”

The NBA sent a letter to Andy Miller, Billups’ agent, on Monday morning, warning him there could be consequences for Billups if he fails to live up to his professional obligations with a team that claims him off waivers, a league source said.

Miller had sent a letter to multiple NBA teams encouraging them not to put in a claim on Billups, and Billups told Yahoo! Sports that he could become a problem for a team that did so. The NBA reacted in strong terms, warning Billups he wasn’t allowed to usurp the amnesty process. Clearly, the NBA is on a mission to get a tighter grip on player movement.

The Clippers represent a potential playoff team for Billups, but they’re not the kind of championship contender such as the Heat or Lakers that he would’ve chose himself. Billups does spend a good amount of time in the offseason in Los Angeles, working with his personal trainer.

The New Jersey Nets also considered an 11th-hour bid to claim on Billups as an attempt to keep him from potentially joining the Orlando Magic, who have likely tried to sign the veteran point guard to appease Dwight Howard.

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Updated Monday, Dec 12, 2011