'I can hoop': Ex-Piston Chauncey Billups, 43, thinks he can hold his own in HORSE Challenge

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Chauncey Billups' biggest concern isn't the ridiculous halfcourt heaves. It's not even the around-the-back or over-the-head trick shots.

As one of the eight competitors in the NBA’s HORSE Challenge, Billups is most concerned about the weather at his home in Colorado. With each player using his or her home court to exercise social distancing, Billups may be at a disadvantage — with Sunday’s forecast for the Denver to include a high of 32 degrees and snow showers, with winds at 14 mph.

Chauncey Billups

“They asked if I would be willing to do it, but it depends on the weather — it might snow one day and rain the next,” Billups said. “The weather is cool right now, but I hope it’s not too windy.”

It’s not ideal basketball weather, but almost anything will be an improvement as the NBA looks to fill the void left by the suspension of the regular season, which has lasted a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billups, 43, hasn’t played in the NBA since 2014, but when he got a call about being one of the participants in the HORSE Challenge, which will be televised on ESPN on Sunday, he didn’t need a lot of convincing.

“It was (an easy choice), because I don’t have to go anywhere and I’m just sitting around the house,” Billups said. “It was a matter of my weather conditions, yes or no. I looked at the weather app and said I could do it.”

In the first round of the HORSE Challenge, Billups will face the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, who is known for his long-distance shots, many of which come from 30 feet — or farther.

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Billups admits that he still shoots around once in a while, but he wouldn’t be in shape to play an NBA-level game, but the shot-making in HORSE is still in his wheelhouse.

“I still work out; I’m not in basketball shape — that much I know — but I can hoop,” Billups said. “Being in shape, to play with 5-on-5 with good players, no, but shooting around, I still do that, but nothing crazy.”

Along with Billups and Young, the NBA recruited All-Stars Chris Paul and Young, along with Zach LaVine, former All-Star Paul Pierce, newly-elected Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings and WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley for the event.

The rules follow the familiar court game with players announcing shot attempts that the competitor must mimic. A coin toss will determine which player goes first.

Billups hasn’t formulated a strategy but knows that Young could pose a problem in the opening round because of his 3-point range. Rather than worry about Young’s strengths, Billups is working on his bread-and-butter shots to get prepared.

“I have to think Trae is going to be shooting from where he shoots in games, which is farther than I like to shoot it. I have to prepare for things like that,” Billups said. “I don’t know if he’s a good bank-shooter or with his left hand. I don’t know if he shoots it from behind the backboard. There are certain shots I know I can make.

“I hope it provides some entertainment and for people to look forward to.”

Admittedly, Billups wasn’t even the best HORSE player on the 2004 Pistons championship team. That title goes to Rasheed Wallace, who is renowned for his mastery of trick shots.

“Sheed would be the perfect guy to do it,” Billups said. “If there was a guy to do it on our team, he would be the guy out of any of us.”


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard