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Pistons keep Billups with four-year, $46M deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Pistons retained the face and point
guard of their franchise, one year after losing a leader in free
agency.

Chauncey Billups

Billups

Point Guard
Detroit Pistons

Profile

Chauncey Billups signed a $46 million, four-year contract
Wednesday with the Pistons, returning to the team he helped reach
five straight conference finals. The contract includes a team option for the fifth
year that could make the deal worth $60 million.

Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said he
was "very pleased" to have Billups back.

"We said from the beginning that re-signing Chauncey was our
top priority, and now we can move forward knowing that Chauncey
will continue to lead this team," Dumars told The Associated Press
on Wednesday. "One of the toughest positions to fill in this
business is the point guard position, and that's why it was
imperative that we re-sign Chauncey."

The Pistons wanted to bring back Ben Wallace last year, but
Chicago swooped in with a $60 million, four-year offer that was
about $10 million more than Detroit was willing to pay the iconic
center.

While Wallace was vague when asked about his future when the
2005-06 season ended, Billups made it clear he wanted to return to
the team that gave him stability for the first time.

"Everyone knows I love this team, this town, being a Piston,"
he said last month when Detroit was eliminated at Cleveland. "I
really grew up here, made a name for myself: All-Star, champion,
MVP.

"We'll see how it works out."

An e-mail seeking comment was sent Wednesday to Billups.

It appears that the deal worked out for both sides because even
though the two-time All-Star was one of the NBA's top free agents
this summer, other teams didn't seem to be willing or able to
compete with Detroit's offer.

Rasheed Wallace in 2004 re-signed with the Pistons in a similar
situation, for $57 million over five years, after he and Billups
helped the franchise win its third title.

Billups has guided Detroit on the court during what has been one
of the league's most consistent stretches in two-plus decades.

He was the NBA finals MVP three years ago, when Detroit beat a
Los Angeles Lakers team that included Shaquille O'Neal and
Kobe Bryant, and he nearly led the Pistons to another title the next
year.

Since 1984, only the Lakers have been more reliable in the
playoffs, with a run that ended with a sixth straight conference
finals appearance in 1989.

Billups joined the Pistons as a free agent in 2002 after
bouncing around the league.

The former Colorado star was drafted third overall in 1997 by
Boston and was with Toronto, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota within
his first four years in the league.

In Detroit, Billups was given a chance to blossom, and he took
full advantage of it.

He became one of the NBA's top point guards with his steady
leadership and clutch shooting, along with the willingness to learn
from each of his three coaches in Detroit: Rick Carlisle, Larry
Brown and Flip Saunders.

Billups averaged 17 points, 7.2 assists and two turnovers last
season, finishing second in assist-to-turnover ratio and helping
the Pistons have the best record in the Eastern Conference. He made
the All-NBA third team along with Miami's Dwyane Wade, Minnesota's
Kevin Garnett, Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Orlando's
Dwight Howard.

His best season statically was two seasons ago, when he was on
the All-NBA second team after averaging career highs in points
(18.5), assists (8.6) and was named to the NBA All-Defensive second
team for the second straight year.

The player known as Mr. Big Shot was off his game, though, in
each of the past two conference finals as Detroit was eliminated.
Against the Cavaliers, he averaged 15.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.8
turnovers while uncharacteristically struggling in pressure-packed
situations.

"I played as hard as I could, but I didn't play that great,"
he said when the season ended. "I'm sure some other guys in this
locker room could say the same thing."

But the Pistons wouldn't have reached the NBA's final four in
each of the past five seasons without Billups, whose unique ability
to run the team was underscored when he was sidelined with injuries
last season.

Billups might have a chance to play in the conference finals for
a sixth straight year.

Barring a major trade, he will be in one of the top backcourts
with Richard Hamilton. The Pistons also feature three talented
frontcourt players: Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Antonio McDyess.

Detroit hopes to improve its depth and future by re-signing
restricted free agent Amir Johnson, who has impressed the team
despite playing just 11 NBA games since the 6-foot-9 forward was
drafted out of high school in 2005.

Chris Webber, who ended the season as Detroit's starting center,
is an unrestricted free agent. It's not clear if Webber wants to
play again, or if the Pistons want him back. If Webber is not
re-signed, center Nazr Mohammed likely will be retained unless the
team can't acquire a better center through trades.

Detroit drafted guards Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo last
month in the first round, adding depth after dealing Carlos Delfino
and expecting Lindsey Hunter to retire or play a limited role on
the court.