A new five-year, $60.5 million contract makes Billups feel at home.
David E. Klutho/SI
Last season, point guard Chauncey Billups led all NBA starters in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.59 to 1) for the second straight year. In 2005-06 he was also the most efficient player, with 4.11 assists per turnover.
Record: 53-29 (1st in East) Points scored: 96.0 (21st in NBA) Points allowed: 91.8 (2nd) Coach: Flip Saunders (third season with Pistons)
The veteran core is recommitted -- and relieved to see new juice on the bench
His reputation for fearlessness in crunch time has earned him one of the
NBA's signature nicknames, but Pistons guard Chauncey Billups (a.k.a.
Mr. Big Shot) far from lived up to it in the Eastern Conference finals
against the Cavaliers last season. He finished the series with more turnovers
(23) than assists (21) and was flummoxed by defenders who trapped him on
virtually every half-court possession. "I hated the way that series ended," says
Billups, "but they are the kings of the East now. For us to get to where we need
to go, we have to go through Cleveland."
This summer Detroit committed to having Billups lead the way, signing him to
a five-year, $60.5 million contract, the richest in franchise history.
"There's no added pressure," he says. "I'll be going out and giving the same
effort. Nothing's changed."
What has changed is the rotation, thanks to an infusion of youth. Billups
raves about first-round pick Rodney Stuckey, a combo guard out of Eastern
Washington who was a summer-league star (19.0 points a game). Fellow rookie
guard Arron Afflalo provides depth, and third-year forwards Jason Maxiell and
Amir Johnson will see added time. "It's been awhile since I've felt fresh in the
fourth quarter," says Billups, 31. "New juice and fresh legs is something we
Of course the Pistons still have to rely on the core of Billups, Rip
Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace to get them to their sixth
straight conference finals. According to Billups, Wallace entered training camp
20 pounds lighter and with a refreshed attitude. "It's a smooth-sailing
ship," says Wallace, "and no one is trying to jump overboard."
Certainly not Billups. "It was up and down trying to find myself as a player
and find stability for my family," he says. "After finally getting that here, I
was not going to turn my back on this situation. This is home." -- Richard