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 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.
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.
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.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press