Billups has been sidelined since sustaining a deep left thigh bruise when he collided with Dwight Howard in the Knicks' loss at Orlando on Tuesday. Toney Douglas started in place of Billups on Wednesday night against the Hornets and scored 24 points in a 107-88 victory.
The Knicks will be seeking to avenge their six-point loss at Cleveland last Friday in Carmelo Anthony's second game with the Knicks.
"Tomorrow is a payback game, man," Anthony said. "It left a bitter taste in my mouth and in the team's mouth, and we remember that. We hold grudges."
The Knicks are 3-2 since acquiring Anthony in their blockbuster trade with the Denver Nuggets, and he has scored 27, 27, 29, 25 and 22 points in the five games, shooting 40 percent from the field and going 5-for-15 from 3-point range as he adapts to playing in coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive system.
The Knicks are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 23 games remaining, holding a 1½-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Publicly, they are setting their sights on simply making the playoffs. But in a sign of how confident the Knicks are that they will be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2004, Amare Stoudemire was overheard after practice Thursday (in the room next door to the press room at the team's practice facility) recording videos to be shown on the scoreboard in late April or early May -- one of which went "Beat The Heat!, Beat the Heat!"
The Knicks could indeed find themselves in a matchup with their old rivals from Miami if they maintain the sixth seed and the Heat finish third. Or, it could happen if the Knicks are passed by the 76ers (who lead the season series 2-1) and the Heat stay in their current position -- second in the Eastern Conference, behind Boston and ahead of Chicago.
New York and Miami will not play again during the regular season, but the Knicks do still have two games remaining against Orlando this month, two games remaining against Boston and one each against Chicago and Atlanta. They also have three games remaining against the Indiana Pacers, who are trying to hold off the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks for eighth place in the East.
Anthony was asked which of the East's top four teams he believes the Knicks match up best against.
"Each team is different. Miami is different, seeing that we matched up pretty well against them. Orlando is different when you have a big guy like Dwight like that with four shooters. I haven't played against Chicago yet on this team, or Atlanta. So we'll see as time goes on."
D'Antoni acknowledged that the Knicks have seemed to play at a slower pace since Anthony's arrival, but he said statistics quantifying pace of play show New York is fourth in the NBA in that category since the trade.
Still, the Knicks have often settled for isolation plays to exploit the one-on-one talents of Anthony and Stoudemire, taking advantage of the extra spacing defenses are giving them by having to stay home on the Knicks' perimeter players.
"That's just a knack that I have, that I've become good at that," Anthony said. "Sometimes during the game, just trying to pick my spots, if I have a little defender on me I'm going to go into the post -- that's just a natural instinct that I have. But it's better for me in this offense to keep the ball moving, running, coming off screens. I didn't have that in Denver. It was just go down there and get a bucket in the post and bully your way though. I did seven years of bullying, man, and my body can't take it no more."
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.