Chauncey Billups: Motor City Hero

Chauncey Billups: Motor City Hero

Under the guidance of new general manager Dumars, the Pistons overhauled their roster in the early 2000s, adding Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace.

In 2002–03, Chauncey Billups helped Detroit finish first overall in the Eastern Conference with a 50–32 regular season record. Billups earned the nickname “Mr. Big-Shot” during the regular season for two events. He first made a three on March 9 as time expired with his team at home but down 105–104 against the Golden State Warriors. The Pistons won 107–105 and Billups scored 31 points. The second event was just over two weeks later on March 26. The Pistons were tied in overtime with the Atlanta Hawks 99–99 until Billups made a top-of-the-key triple with 0.5 seconds left to win the game. Billups finished with 22 points against the Hawks.

In the 2003 Playoffs, the top-seed Pistons surprisingly fell behind the upstart 8-seed Orlando Magic in the first round series 3 games to 1. In game 5, Billups played a contributing role in his team’s dominating 98–67 victory by scoring 15 points, tied for second on the Pistons. Having helped the Pistons stave off elimination in Game 5, Billups scored 40 points in game 6 to help the Pistons force a seventh game. In the decisive Game 7, Billups scored 37 points to help clinch the series 4–3. Detroit then beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals 4-2 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where Detroit was swept by the New Jersey Nets, 4-0. Rick Carlisle was fired as the head coach in the off-season and Larry Brown was hired.

In the 2004 season, Billups averaged 16.9 points, 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. The Pistons improved their record to 54–28 but it was only good for the third seed overall in the east playoffs playoff standings. In the pivotal Game 3 during the first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Billups led all scorers with 21 pts and finished the scoring for his team by sinking 4 of 4 free throws in the final 31.2 seconds. These free throws were a key part of the Pistons effort to stave off the Bucks’ relentless defense. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the defending Eastern Conference Champions the New Jersey Nets, Billups banked in a half-court three as time expired in game 5 to send the game into overtime. The Pistons would lose in triple overtime. Finally, he helped Detroit overcome a 3-2 series deficit to win the series 4-3.

In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, the Pistons won the gritty, defensive series 4-2. He helped Detroit win the 2004 NBA Finals over the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers, four games to one. He averaged 21 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG to earn the NBA Finals MVP Award.

Billups said of his MVP award, “Everybody deserves this. Not just me. I wish I could turn it into thirteen pieces and give a little bit to everybody.”

The following season, Billups was named to the 2005 NBA Second All-Defensive Team, along with teammate Tayshaun Prince, while co-captain of the Pistons Ben Wallace took home the Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Pistons reached the 2005 NBA Finals but lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games. In 2006, Billups was co-captain of the team. Although he captained the Pistons to a franchise-best 64–18 record, they failed to make it to the NBA Finals for the first time in three years. On July 11, 2007, Billups signed a $46 million, four-year contract with the Pistons. In the first round of the 2008 NBA playoffs, during Game 3 against the Orlando Magic, Billups injured his right hamstring when Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson tangled with Billup’s left leg on a drive to the basket. Billups would sit for the 3 remaining games of the series. Billups and the Pistons again made it to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics but lost the series 4-2 to the eventual champions.

Career highlights and awards: NBA Champion (2004), NBA Finals MVP, 5× NBA All-Star, All-NBA Second Team, 2× All-NBA Third Team, 2× NBA All-Defensive Second Team, No. 1 retired by Detroit Pistons, No. 4 retired by University of Colorado.