Frankly, I’m still a bit bitter about it; what’s more, I remain unconvinced that AI is the answer Detroit needs. At best, he could turn into the superstar who propels us into the finals – for this year anyway. At worst, we’ve got money to completely restructure the franchise.
But caught somewhere in the middle of all this are the fans and two fan-favorites, affectionately known as Mr. Big Shot and Dice. In a shockingly candid interview, Billups shares his feelings on his past few seasons in Detroit, intimating details about the relationships that existed and continue to exist, friction between the players and coaching staff, and of course, the trade.
If you are a fan of the Pistons you must read this. I guarantee some of it will surprise you, and if you are a human being with emotion, you will feel terrible about how he was traded (and how the rest of the roster, most notably Rip, was left in the dark – apart from Joe D’s ‘no sacred cows’ comments).
The most striking comment for me is this: while he is discussing how he could have signed with a different team just a year ago, he makes the following statement about how the fans may have reacted:
“If I do something different and leave, then I come back and people are gonna be like, ‘How are you gonna do that to us?’ ” Billups said. “Now this happens to me, now who are they looking at and saying, ‘How are you gonna do that to Chaunce?’ It’s a double-standard. But that’s just how this game is. I understand that.”
Not that Billups is ever going to read this, as much as I wish he would, but here is one fan who thinks he was treated poorly. Of course, he’s still making millions to play basketball, so the big picture and future look pretty good for him; however, this interview and comment in particular highlight the human element that gets lost behind the spotlight in the NBA.
Here’s another excerpt from the interview that will highlight what I’m trying to say:
When the Pistons were wooing Billups, they talked about putting down roots in the community. Billups won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2008 for his charity work. His Porter-Billups Leadership Academy helps prepare at-risk kids in his hometown of Denver for college, and he planned to extend the academy to Detroit. He also ran a charity golf tournament in Michigan and wanted to invest his millions in the area, like former Pistons guards Dave Bing and Joe Dumars.
“Those were all my intentions when I signed back with Detroit — not just the basketball thing, me retiring a Piston, but me really sinking my two feet into everything that Detroit is going through,” Billups said. “Detroit has obviously been through some tough times. I think at some point here it is going to turn around. I was trying to be part of that development.
“It’s up in the air right now, to be honest with you. I won’t say it’s off the table. But when I’m doing something like that, I like to be able to have my hands on it. I like to be able to be there and do a lot of the things in person.”
Piston for life? When Billups re-signed, he seemed like a likely candidate to have his No. 1 retired. Last week, after he was traded, Billups turned on the television. And there was Allen Iverson, wearing No. 1 for the Pistons.
“I will admit, that shocked me,” he said. “It’s kind of surreal when you first get traded. But when I saw that No. 1 on TV with a different name, that’s when I said, ‘It’s official.’ ”
Two things jump out. First, AI wearing #1 is nothing but salt in the wound, for Billups and for his fans. He shouldn’t be wearing that jersey. Second, Detroit has lost a powerful force in the community. I just accepted a job with an organization who will feel this impact directly, because he will no longer be a crowd-drawer at one of their annual conferences.
But finally, here’s one fan objecting to the way it all went down. Basketball is a business which aims to please its fans, and ultimately, most fans will be appeased by watching more superstars and winning more games, particularly a championship. However, I didn’t just want the Pistons to win a championship, I wanted that Pistons team – the team whose trademarks were teamwork (without a superstar), defense, and toughness – composed of those players to climb their way back to the top of the proverbial mountain. Because for me, as a fan, winning wasn’t everything. It was watching the team I had invested and actually felt a connection to.
Based on that connection, the Denver Nuggets now have at least one more fan.
To conclude my rant, let me share a bit of irony. I attended both Billups’ and Dice’s last games at the Palace this season, and I was in attendance for AI’s first home game as well. My brother and I both wore Chauncey Billups jerseys to pay our respects to a player we respect and have enjoyed watching play. Oh yeah, the Celtics beat the crap out of us as we struggled to control the ball and get good shots. Wasn’t AI supposed to help with that? Oh yeah again, the Nuggets are playing great with Billups.
This trade has made me realize why I’ve been such a passionate Pistons fan for the past several years. It hasn’t been about how much we have won; rather, it has been about how we have won. As a team with no superstars who played the game the way it was meant to be played.
P.S. For those who love B-B-B-Billups and Micidey-MacDyess, you might also cry while watching this:
(By the way, I was at this game in the flesh for my bachelor party. It was so loud you couldn’t hear the person next to you yelling at the top of his lungs. An awesome experience I will never forget.)
P.S. part 2:
I attended Isaiah Thomas’ last game as a Pistons, when he suffered a career-ending injury. I attended Billups’ final game in a Pistons uniform. I also attended AI’s first home game for Detroit. And I think I am one of three people in the world to be at those three games, my brother, myself, and Joe Dumars.