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."
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."
ENEMY LINES An
opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons
The Pistons are
still a team that will win 50 games and be a contender, but their championship
window is slowly closing. . . . In the changeover from Larry Brown to Flip
Saunders, they don't look as committed to the defensive end. . . . They have an
All-Star backcourt and the best pair of defensive forwards in the league in
Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace (who has the highest basketball IQ in the
NBA), but are they starting to get complacent from having been together so
long? . . . As good as the Pistons are, with four All-Star-caliber players,
they don't have that one dominant franchise guy, and the last two seasons
they've lost to teams that do have that guy ( Dwyane Wade in Miami and LeBron
James in Cleveland). . . . The wild card is Jason Maxiell, who made great
strides in the second half of last season and appeared to raise his game during
the playoffs. He's an athletic, intense player, and his role is only going to
grow this year. He adds the kind of energy this team needs.
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.