Detroit Bad Boys at Pistons Media Day: Billups ready to again be part of winning tradition

USA TODAY Sports

Billups talks about what being a Piston means to him, what position he's willing to play and how important it is to bring winning back to Detroit and its fans.

The way his coach and teammates talk about him, you might think Chauncey Billups had decided to retire. They were effusive in their praise of his accomplishments on the court, his legacy of success in Detroit, his sterling reputation around the league, and talked about all the things they could learn from him about the game of basketball.

But, to steal a line from a Richard Pryor documentary, he ain't dead yet. Billups can still play, and play well. And now No. 1 is eager to show off those skills back where he belongs - in a Detroit Pistons uniform.

"It feels like home, you know," he said of being back where he made a name for himself in the NBA, won a championship, a Finals MVP and became one of the top point guards in the league.

Whether he plays at the one or two position, however, remains to be seen. Coach Maurice Cheeks was noncommital, only saying that Billups could handle both spots.

But shortly after signing his two-year deal with the Pistons, the newly liberated Billups opened up about his time with the Los Angeles Clippers, including about his position.

"I never saw myself as a shooting guard. I never wanted to play it."

"I never saw myself as a shooting guard. I never wanted to play it," Billups said of his two-year stint serving as the wingman to Chris Paul.  He did it, Billups said, as a way to get out on the floor.

He also said at the time that he expected to start at point guard in Detroit.

But that was at a time when his competition was Brandon Knight.

Shortly after making those comments, the Pistons swung a trade for Brandon Jennings, and Jennings appears to be the starting point guard. So where does Billups think he fits now?

He addressed those concerns at Pistons media day.

"I'm always, always going to consider myself a starter - and a point guard at that," Billups said. But he also emphasized he was willing to do what it took to help the team win and was willing to again play the off guard role with some provisions.

But his one request amounted to "let Billups be Billups." He's not looking to stand in the corner as a catch-and-shoot 3-point specialist. Not again.

"I don't mind playing the two only if I'm able to play like a point guard," Billups said. "Have the ball in my hands a little bit and make plays - have an effect on the game.

"The way I played the last three years, I just kind of sit there in the corner and chill."

Luckily, if there is one person I know who doesn't ascribe to traditional roles for his guards its Joe Dumars.

Dumars for years has frustrated fans with a penchant for ... how do you put it ... "non-traditional" point guards, scoring point guards, shooting guards in a point guard's body, combo guards, maybe.

Billups was, after all, traded for Allen Iverson, and was dealt in part to make way for Rodney Stuckey. We've also seen Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and Brandon Knight join the backcourt fray over the years.

But now in Jennings and Billups he has two players that can shoot but also have displayed some serious, traditional point guard skills. Things like running the fast break, negotiating the pick and roll, driving and dishing, etc.

Does that mean Billups is destined for the starting lineup? Nobody is saying.

I personally have my doubts only because neither Billups, who will be 37 on opening night, nor Jennings is a particularly great defender.

But when he's on the floor he will make an impact. Even in his injury-marred time with the Clippers he still maintained high marks offensively. He can space the floor with a perimeter shot and can be counted on as a good steadying force for Jennings, who sometimes plays up and down from game to game or even quarter to quarter.

And it's obvious that bringing a winning tradition back to the Pistons means a great deal to Billups.

He talked with the media bout how he took his No. 1 jersey home with him after his introductory press conference. It wasn't an actual jersey for him, just something for show for the cameras. But that night he said that he had to practice putting it back on again and again.

Someone in the media asked him if the act of putting on a jersey for the Clippers is somehow different.

Billups paused, pointed down at the jersey he was wearing and said, "This means something a little different."

I asked him what it would mean to him to bring winning back to Detroit. To see the Palace of Auburn Hillls filled to capacity with screaming fans again. To bring the DEEE-TROIT back to DEE-TROIT BASKETBALL.

"Man, that would mean a great deal, man," Billups said, affected by the thought of what once was and what had become of his former home.

"It's been a lot different the last few years. I'm not saying it's going to be like we were when I was here. Obviously, that's the goal, but that takes some time. But we are going to put a good product on the floor."

With Billups in the fold, that task becomes much easier.

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