NBA: Iverson traded to Detroit
By Larry Lage
DETROIT ó The Detroit Pistons shook the NBA in a big way Monday ó landing former MVP Allen Iverson from the Denver Nuggets.
The Pistons gave up All-Star point guard and former NBA finals MVP Chauncey Billups, top reserve Antonio McDyess and project Cheikh Samb.
“We just felt it was the right time to change our team,” Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars told The Associated Press. “Iverson gives us a dimension that we haven’t had here and we really think it’s going to help us.”
Iverson is in the final year of his contract, making $20.8 million this season. He could debut with the Pistons on Wednesday night in Toronto.
“He was very excited about the trade,” Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose, told the AP.
Billups is in the second season of a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $46 million with a $14 million team option for a fifth year. The Pistons kept McDyess off the free-agent market by giving him a $13.5 million, two-year contract extension, and they would love to have him back if the cost-cutting Nuggets buy out his contract.
“Two teams had one common problem, or challenge,” Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien said. “I think the Pistons looked at (Rodney) Stuckey and saw him as the point guard of tomorrow, and you have an All-Star in Chauncey who was in his way.
“We’re just thrilled with the way J.R. (Smith) is progressing and he had a Hall of Famer in front of him. You understand the motivation of both teams.”
The blockbuster deal comes two games into the season for Detroit. The Pistons have been a model of consistency in recent years, but they were determined to transform their core following a third straight exit from the Eastern Conference finals last spring.
The Pistons play Monday night at Charlotte, where the Bobcats are coached by Larry Brown. The Hall of Fame coach helped Billups and the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title and guided the Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers to a spot in the finals in 2001.
“Trading Marilyn Monroe for Jane Russell. That’s not bad,” Brown said. “Joe knows what he’s doing, and I’m happy Chauncey’s going back to Denver and his family is there.”
Billups was born in Denver and played in college at Colorado. McDyess was a Nugget from 1995-97 and 1998-02.
The addition of Billups might placate Nuggets fans who have watched the once free-spending franchise trade Marcus Camby to the Clippers in the offseason and recently decline to extend Linas Kleiza’s contract.
Iverson brings considerable star power to Detroit. The 20th-leading scorer in NBA history was the league MVP in 2001 ó four years after being the Rookie of the Year ó and is a nine-time All-Star. He has averaged nearly 28 points for his career and has led the NBA in steals three times.
Philadelphia drafted him No. 1 overall in 1996 out of Georgetown, leading it to the NBA finals in 2001. He was traded Dec. 19, 2006, to the Nuggets and helped them reach the playoffs twice.
Detroit, which tried to deal for the 33-year-old Iverson at least once before, added a superstar it lacked with Iverson and salary-cap space for next summer by shedding Billups’ contract.
Billups is 32 and has bounced around the league after Boston drafted him No. 3 overall in 1997. He then found an NBA home in Detroit and becoming a three-time All-Star, and two-time All-Defensive player. He was on rosters in Boston, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota in his first four seasons.
Detroit signed him as a free agent in 2002 and he led the franchise to six straight conference finals appearances, the NBA’s longest such stretch since the Los Angeles Lakers dominant run in the 1980s. He was at his best in the 2004 NBA finals when he helped the Pistons win their third title under Brown.
“It’s kind of hard for me because of that core group,” Brown said. “Every time I look out and don’t see Ben (Wallace) there I get a strange feeling. Now not to see Chancey and Dyess, it’s going to be different.
“But Allen is really special. If they want excitement in that building they’re going to get it because every time he steps on the court he’s going to try to win the game. And I don’t think you would ever consider giving up Chauncey and Dyess unless you were getting something you thought was pretty special.”