Chauncey Billups is one of the most beloved figures in Detroit Pistons history. His first stint with the Pistons from 2002-2008 was filled with big shots, Division titles and an NBA title in which he won Finals MVP.
In 2008, Billups was traded away in a deal that sent him to Denver in exchange for Allen Iverson, a trade that the Pistons have been reeling from ever since. It was a devastating trade that crippled the franchise and caused nothing but grief for both sides involved.
Since the trade, Billups has hopped around the league, at a rate similar to early in his career, and injuries have really dampened his games played and overall production–which was tremendously consistent in Detroit.
The Pistons, since the trade, have been the NBA’s face for futility and have also seen attendance numbers drop to its worst in 30 years (last season ranked 28th out of 30 NBA teams).
This offseason when I seen Billups’ deal with the Clippers was coming to an end, I thought, “can Joe Dumars salvage his relationship with Billups and bring him back, if he doesn’t retire?”
Not only would it be a nice and cheery story to make you feel all fuzzy inside, it would give the Pistons a much needed piece and give fans a reason to come back to the ghost town that is The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Then in July, it happened.
Billups and Dumars were able to put the past behind them and come to a deal where Billups will more than likely see his career end as a Detroit Piston, as it should.
Expect a lot of smiles from Billups and Pistons fans alike if the team can live up to the hype.
But, let’s be clear here. Billups isn’t here for a warm and fuzzy reunion and eventual retirement party. He’s here as a veteran voice to help guide a pretty young Pistons locker room. And, not only that, Billups is here to play and compete for the starting point guard position.
The Pistons did sign Billups before they made the trade for Brandon Jennings, but that doesn’t mean Jennings is already penciled in as the team’s starting point guard.
Joe Dumars and head coach Maurice Cheeks have made it very clear this offseason that the starting point guard job is up for someone to take. Billups being the fiery competitor and proven winner he is will have something to say about that before it’s all said and done.
Will he win the job? I don’t think so. Jennings should take care of business and take the reigns as the team’s starting floor general, but that does open some other opportunities for Mr. Big Shot.
The starting shooting guard position is completely wide open, as well. Billups, who is a 41.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc in his career, is in the conversation for the starting two-guard slot. The Pistons desperately missed having a consistent three-point threat in the backcourt a year ago, and many years for that matter, and Billups could handle those duties this year.
With that said, though, I also don’t believe Billups will start at shooting guard for the Pistons. The young first-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope seems to fit what the Pistons need at the shooting guard position the best and I wouldn’t be surprised if the team immediately threw him into the fire.
Lets remember as well, Billups, who is 36, is coming off surgery from an Achilles tear. This is one of the worst injuries an older player can have and it can further slow up an aging game (don’t tell Kobe that).
So, if he isn’t going to start, what will his role be?
Billups is best suited as the Pistons’ sixth man.
Billups is a terrific asset for this team because of his natural point guard skills (takes care of ball/can run any offense/ leader) and ability to shoot. Cheeks can use his skills at the point guard or shooting guard spot interchangeably which will give the Pistons a number of different kinds of lineups they can use.
Even if Billups isn’t used as the Pistons’ sixth man, he will fill a role that the Pistons needed the most this offseason: leadership.
Billups will be the voice of reason in the Pistons locker room and an extra coach on the bench. Jennings, who has lacked guidance in his young career, should flourish under Billups’ wing. Not only will Jennings and the other point guards flourish learning from a player that has a track record like Billups’, the rest of the team has a voice that has been to the top of the mountain and did it in the city they’re all in.
Chauncey Billups signed with the Pistons to lead the franchise and city he loves on a trip back to the top of the mountain.
The trip could be long and bumpy, but the Pistons and their fans should take comfort that Billups is there to help lead the way.