Detroit Pistons Fan’s View: Nostalgia for Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups' name continues to arise, more than four years since the big trade transpired. In discussions of the Detroit Pistons' demise, both in my writing and with sports buddies, a common theme is that the collapse started with the ill-fated November 2008 trade of Chauncey Billups (and Antonio McDyess) to Denver for Allen Iverson.

The main question is, what was Joe Dumars thinking when he shipped Billups? Joe D apparently wanted more quickness at guard, but I agree that it was a bad, horrible move. But sometimes I wonder whether we Pistons fans are engaging in some sort of misplaced nostalgia. It's not as though the Stones still would be contenders if only Chauncey had stayed on board.

We sometimes "remember" Billups shooting 100 percent from downtown, like he still seems to do from the free throw line, and we forget he would have his cold spells as well. He indeed was/is a good, sometimes great player, and I don't want to get too much into statistics, because the numbers can cause us to overlook Billups' intangibles, such as his leadership, his team play and his calm presence on the floor.

I was watching the Billups' new team, the up-and-coming Los Angeles Clippers, knock off the Miami Heat, 95-89. Billups was out there alongside the incredible, Isiah-like Chris Paul, and of course we root for Chauncey when he puts up a shot. In this particular game he was off the mark, only 2 for 11. Furthermore, he continued to chuck triple tries, 8 of them in all, which seemed ill-advised, in that Paul at the same time was scorching the Heat defense. This was a case in which the Clips scored a big win in spite of Billups, not because of him, although he made three big free throws at the end.

Then I looked up Billups' career stats. He's a 42 percent career shooter, low for a guard, and he was about the same for the Pistons. Most suprisingly, he shot only 39 percent during the Stones' championship season, 2003-04 (although he heated up during the finals against the Lakers, when he was MVP).

More importantly, as he ages, the 35-year-old Billups is increasingly relying on three-pointers, which indicates he is slowing down a tad. During his prime with the Pistons, about 33 percent of his shots were triples. Nowadays it's roughly 50 percent. For his first six games with the Clippers, Chauncey is 12 for 36 on three-point shots and 11 for 31 on shorter attempts (and, in typical take-it-to-the-bank form, 37 for 39 on free throws).

These statistical citings in no way are meant to diminish Billups. He still should be with our Pistons, if not for Dumars' 2008 gaffe of temporary insanity, and we would love to still have Chauncey. But let's not misplace our nostalgia. Sometimes my buddies fail to acknowlege that even with Billups, given the overall makeup of the team, they'd still be losing. (Maybe not quite as often or quite as badly, but still …..)

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Updated Thursday, Jan 12, 2012