NBA: No place like home for Billups
DENVER ó Chauncey Billups’ vertical has diminished and his speed in the open court slowed.
That’s fine with the Denver Nuggets ó they just like him for his winning touch.
The Mile High City native led the Detroit Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference finals with his impeccable decision-making abilities and clutch shooting.
That’s why the Nuggets acquired Billups, along with Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb, from Detroit this week for Allen Iverson.
They like his no-nonsense attitude when it comes to winning.
“I’m coming to work, I’m coming to win,” Billups said Thursday. “If guys want to win, they’re going to fall in line. That’s all I play for ó that’s the only reason I play ó is to win.”
While Billups is on board, McDyess may soon be bought out of his contract. His agent, Andy Miller, called his chances of returning for a third stint with Denver “very low to zero.”
“I don’t think it has to do with a destination or a city right now,” Miller said. “I think it has more to do with his ability to pick and choose his destination … He really had difficulty with the whole thing.”
Not so with Billups.
He’s a celebrity around Denver, a high school prodigy who went on to play at the University of Colorado. Billups couldn’t wait to get back for a second stint in Denver.
After all, Billups’ first time in town didn’t go as he expected ó he was forced to play shooting guard with Nick Van Exel already running the show and later dislocated his left shoulder, requiring season-ending surgery.
“When I first came back here, I was like the hometown kid coming back,” Billups said. “Now I’m a man. I’m not the same, as far as my game goes.”
“His challenge is to help the team and me balance out our offense right now,” Karl said.
As soon as he gets up to speed, that is.
Billups was lost in a tidal wave of terms and tactics Thursday at practice, with Karl frequently halting action to discuss a play with him.
It wasn’t so much a nuisance as needed, an opportunity to give a refresher course to his entire team.
“Everybody needed a review of the offense, because we haven’t been doing very good offensively,” Karl said.
Although Denver is one of the top-scoring teams in the league, Karl hasn’t been happy with the turnovers and shot selection.
“I think it’s the beginning of a new, refreshing experiment of having a point guard,” said Karl, whose team is off to a 1-3 start.
Before he arrived in town, Billups had a big decision to make ó what number to wear?
Two of his favorite numbers were already taken ó No. 4 already belonged to Kenyon Martin and No. 1 to J.R. Smith.
As Billups packed up his belongings in Detroit, it suddenly hit him.
Why not go with No. 7 in honor of John Elway?
“I just thought about how John Elway ended his career, and the legacy that he left on this city,” Billups said. “It just created a lot of motivation and inspiration. I said, ‘I’m going to wear that number, and I’m going to try to wear it proud.’ “