Chauncey Billups wants to return

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- After meeting with Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni for an exit interview on Monday morning, Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups said he is hopeful that he will return to New York next season.

"We'll all know shortly but 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. Hopefully I'll have that opportunity," Billups said.

The Knicks have a team option at $14.2 million to bring back Billups next season. But the Knicks could buy him out for $3.7 million and make him a free agent.
They have five days to make a decision.

"I'm hoping it all comes together," said Billups, who missed three playoff games due to a strained left knee.

He also sat out six games due to a bruised thigh in March. But the 34-year-old, 14-year veteran insisted that he is in good shape and will be healthy for the start of the 2011-12 season.

"I'm 34, not 39," he said.

The Knicks certainly missed Billups in the playoffs. They had a lead late in Game 1 and Billups believes the Knicks could have won the game -- and the series -- if he and Amare Stoudemire had been healthy.

With Billups on the bench, Rajon Rondo torched New York for 30 points in Game 2 and notched a triple-double with 20 assists in Game 3. The Celtics had 96 assists in the four-game series. The Knicks had 67. Billups, like the rest of the Knicks and their fans, was unhappy with the final result in the postseason. But he is optimistic about the future.

"Getting swept in the first round, I don't do this," Billups said. "We're on the way up, we're on the move. It's just, 'How fast can we take that elevator up?'"

The Knicks went 14-14 to close the regular season after acquiring Carmelo Anthony and Billups from the Denver Nuggets, finishing 42-40 for the franchise's first winning record in 10 years.

Going forward, Billups believes it is important to have a veteran point guard to lead a team with stars such as Stoudemire and Anthony.

"Quite frankly, I think that it's important to have somebody at the position that has won and that they pretty much have to respect," he said.

Billups certainly fits that description. He was named MVP of the 2004 Finals. He's reached two Finals and seven conference finals since 2003.

If the Knicks decide by Friday that they'd like to buy out his contract for next season, Billups hinted that he wouldn't let that affect any future negotiations with the team.

"I wouldn't take it personally," he said. "I'm going to play some good years of basketball wherever I'm at. Hopefully it's here though."

Stoudemire and Anthony hope so as well.

Said Anthony: "He's a guy that everybody knows what he brings to the table when he's healthy, when he's playing: a winner, a leader, a veteran, a guy that a lot of people on this team look up to."

Stoudemire said that offseason personnel decisions will be a "team effort" involving himself, Anthony, Walsh and D'Antoni, assuming both the coach and executive return.

If that's the case, count Stoudemire's vote as "yes" to keep Billups.

"I know for a fact that Chauncey is going to get his knee healthy and he's going to be ready to go for next season," Stoudemire said. "I've enjoyed playing with him this year. If Chauncey's back, that would be great for us. He brings great leadership to the team so I look forward to it."

If Billups does not return to the Knicks, Stoudemire believes the Knicks need to go after a veteran. The other guards currently on the roster are Toney Douglas, who is a natural shooting guard, and Anthony Carter.

"If he's not back then I have high confidence in Mr. Walsh that they'll make the right decision to make the team better than what it was this year," Stoudemire said.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.