October 25, 2014

Journeyman player reminds me of the good old days

By Tim Barnum
News Editor | news@ogemawherald.com
Posted 3/2/11

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One of my fondest memories over the last decade is of the spring and summer months of 2004, when the Detroit Pistons won the NBA championship.

For about 20-30 friends and me, the Pistons’ playoff games meant one thing — Pistons parties at my aunt and uncle’s garage. We’d surround the big screen, shout, chant and take part in ritualistic activities that we believed helped will the Pistons to many victories.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons the Pistons won (besides 30 of us standing during the entirety of the fourth quarter or listening to Michael Jackson during commercials) was Chauncey Billups.

Billups was introduced to the Pistons in June 2002 and became our starting point guard in the 02-03 season — the first of six straight seasons the bad boys made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

In the playoffs, especially in Detroit’s championship year, it seemed Chauncey made every three-pointer we needed. “Mr. Big Shot,” as he became known throughout Michigan, was our guy. He was a tough defender, a smart player and a deadly shooter (just ask New Jersey, Indiana, Los Angeles, etc.).

But after the 2008 season, Joe Dumars, a Pistons great in his playing days who seemed to be a competent general manager, decided to toy with Detroit’s roster.

The move resulted in what us Detroit fans may consider one of the worst trades in NBA history. We ultimately sent Billups to Denver — his fourth team in 11 years — and we picked up Allen Iverson, whose best days were long behind him.

What ensued was the beginning of the end. In 2008-09, Detroit limped into the playoffs as the eighth seed only to get destroyed by the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.

Now, the Pistons have fallen so far off the map, that the only way anyone pays attention is if half the team selfishly boycotts a practice because they don’t like the coach. Of course, as a fan, it is pretty hard to like coach John Kuester too. I have about as much faith in him taking us back to the NBA promised land as I have in the icicle dangling from the corner of my roof lasting until June.

Billups, on the other hand, thrived for a couple of seasons in Denver, before being traded at the deadline this season to the New York Knicks. He joined the boys from the Big Apple with another former Nugget — Carmelo Anthony on Feb. 23.

Sunday, NY had a tough task — Miami and its big three, in Miami.

But with about one minute left, and the Knicks trailing by two, it was time for a big shot.

It should come as no shock that Billups, who probably doesn’t even know half of his teammates’ names yet, was the man who took it. He dropped it from downtown over Dwayne Wade’s outstretched arm, giving the Knicks a lead that they would hold on to. He ended the game with 16 points — a solid performance against a team that has finals aspirations.

But the sad part of the story is that after giving New York clutch performances now and through the rest of the season, Billups will probably be traded away next year. The Knicks are eyeing the league’s top young point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul, both of whom will be free agents at the year’s end.

Chauncey, 34 years old, or in NBA terms — over the hill — will go on to another contender looking to get a title before its window closes.

And when he’s there, it’s safe to say he’ll take all the big shots that team needs.

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