Pistons the MVP with Billups' name on it

Originally Published: June 15, 2004
By Joe Lago | ESPN.com

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- This being Hockeytown and all, the Detroit Pistons should be allowed to take their trophy home like they do in the NHL, each player getting the chance to parade it around town with friends and family.

The Finals MVP award, not the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Chauncey Billups
Getty ImagesBillups averaged 21 points and 5.2 assists in the five games vs. the Lakers.

Let's make it clear: Chauncey Billups deserved to be named most valuable player. He averaged 21 points primarily against two of the Lakers' future Hall of Famers, Gary Payton and Kobe Bryant, and ran the Pistons' offense exactly the way Larry Brown likes it -- "the right way," as LB always says -- handing out 5.2 assists versus 2.6 turnovers a game.

But a championship banner will be hung in The Palace of Auburn Hills for the first time since the Bad Boys' repeat in 1990 not because of one scoring point guard. They're celebrating the franchise's third title because of the selfless contributions in this me-last group.

"That's the uniqueness of this ball club," Brown said. "You can point to a lot of different individuals and feel pretty confident that that would have been a good choice [for MVP]."

"I wish I could cut this down to 13 pieces," Billups said. "Because we all did this together."

Fittingly, Detroit finished off the Lakers in five games with Tuesday's 100-87 victory with just about every Piston getting his own time in the spotlight, each highlight worthy of "SportsCenter."

Roll tape.

  • Mehmet Okur. If you needed a reason why Joe Dumars wants to keep the 7-footer in a Pistons uniform, his driving athletic lay-in from the left wing that put Detroit up 55-43 in the second quarter should've been enough proof. Want more? He shot 3-for-3 and scored all seven of his points in just five minutes in the first half, leaving the floor with 20.5 seconds left to a wild ovation.

    "I want to play here every year for a championship," said Okur, who'll be a restricted free agent this summer. "It's all about teamwork."

  • Elden Campbell. His moment of the series came in the Game 3 rout when he threw down his first breakaway dunk in years, but he added another slam while following Richard Hamilton's missed layup for a 64-53 lead as part of a third quarter-ending 20-7 run.

    "We've got guys who can start anywhere else in this league," said Campbell, whose main duty was to distract Shaquille O'Neal. "But we're here and we're taking this backseat role and we're loving every minute of it. We don't have any egos or any hidden agendas."

  • Tayshaun Prince. Anointed the new Kobe Stopper (thanks to two guys named Wallace), Prince saved his best moves on the floor for the championship party. Most notable was his coast-to-coast drive and finger-roll layup that capped the third quarter and put the Pistons up 82-59.

    "There was a lot of chemistry in this team through the course of the playoffs," said Prince, who recorded series highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday as all five of Detroit's starters reached double figures in scoring. "The coaching staff believes in us, and we believe in them."

  • Lindsey Hunter. He earned his playoff share by coming off the bench as part of Detroit's tag team that hounded Bryant. His breakaway finger roll in the third quarter sent an already delirious crowd into euphoria, giving Detroit its first 25-point lead 20 seconds into the fourth quarter.

    "It could've gone to anybody -- Chauncey, Ben [Wallace], Rip," Hunter said of the MVP award. "It really didn't matter. I told those guys that they didn't make the All-Star team and got overlooked, but this [championship] means a lot more than all that stuff."

    If the NBA gave out a playoff MVP, Hamilton would've been the consensus pick, having been the Pistons' most consistent source of scoring in averaging 20 points or more in all four rounds. Wallace made a late push for series MVP honors with a dominating 18-point, 22-rebound performance Tuesday.

    But it was Billups who used the Finals as a showcase for his skills and a stage for redemption after a vagabond existence in his seven seasons.

    And leave it to Billups to make the play of the game late in the third quarter. After a Bryant turnover, Billups pushed the ball up court, crossover dribbled against Payton and muscled up a shot off the glass through the arms of Payton and Devean George for a 3-point play and a 72-55 Pistons advantage.

    "We just felt we were a better team," Billups said. "Maybe they got better individual players, but as far as the team and teamwork, we felt we had the best cohesiveness in the league this year."

    Before Billups joined his teammates in the champagne-spraying fest in the Detroit locker room, someone asked him whether he was taking the Finals MVP trophy home to his home in Colorado.

    "No doubt," he said. "I'm taking this back to Park Hill with me."

    Too bad it's not making 12 more stops.

    Joe Lago is the NBA editor for ESPN.com.

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