Since trading Chauncey Billups to Denver in November of 2008, the Detroit Pistons (the franchise that Billups led to back-to-back NBA Finals, including a championship in 2004) have gone off the rails with no recovery in sight. They've had three head coaches since Billups' departure and have won about 38% of their games.
When the Nuggets sent Billups to the Knicks last February as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade, Billups kept the Knicks afloat, covered for their many weaknesses in the back court and helped guide them into a competitive playoff series against the Celtics. Now? The Knicks amnestied Billups before the season started, overpaid for center Tyson Chandler, have no back court whatsoever and find themselves at 7-13 and going nowhere.
And finally, the ghost of Chauncey Billups exacted some revenge on another of his former teams when the Denver-born Billups returned to Pepsi Center last night and torched our Nuggets for 32 points while generating some tough whistles from the referees that only a heady veteran like Billups can pull off. Regardless of whether or not the calls were fair, the Clippers won the game in the same fashion that the Nuggets won many games when Billups was here.
To be clear, I had no problem with the Nuggets trading Billups last season as part of the Melo deal (or ordeal). I love Billups as much as any Nuggets fan, but Billups was needed to get the full package of players back from the Knicks that has made the Nuggets the darlings of the NBA this season. Moreover, paying an aging point guard $13.1 million this season wouldn't have made sense and it would have put the Nuggets in the "bad guy" role of possibly having to amnesty the most popular Nugget since LaPhonso Ellis played here. And finally, had Billups' true replacement - the speedy Ty Lawson, not the plodding Andre Miller - played last night, I suspect the outcome would be quite different.
But that doesn't change the fact that Billups is, has been and will continue to be a winner. And even though many Nuggets fans are seeing a conference finals appearance from the Nuggets this season (something that has only happened three times in franchise history, the third being with Billups leading the way), we should be mindful that Billups' Clippers are just 1.5 games behind us in the overall conference standings.
Watching the game last night, I had an eerie premonition that we'll be seeing Billups and the Clippers in the playoffs. Those things just seem to happen in the NBA. The question is: next time we face the Clippers, will the ghost of Chauncey Billups haunt the Nuggets again?
On to the links...
Woody Paige: Chauncey Billups still acts like a winner - The Denver Post
Now that Broncos season is over, Woody Paige actually attended a Nuggets game.
Nuggets' six-game winning streak ended by Clippers - The Denver Post
Chris Dempsey's recap of the Clippers game.
Clippers' Chauncey Billups gets warm welcome against Nuggets - latimes.com
Broderick Turner of the LA Times talks to Billups about his emotional return to Denver.