Chauncey Billups and Rodney Stuckey will forever be linked in my mind. After all, it was Stuckey's emergence as a rookie in the 2008 NBA playoffs that convinced Joe Dumars to trade Billups to the Denver Nuggets early the following the season, resulting in the ill-fated and short-lived Allen Iverson era in Detroit.
Billups, of course, proceeded to make two more All-Star appearances, while Stuckey's development stalled until he found his niche as a combo guard, which in his case was just a nice way of saying he's a point guard who doesn't pass and a shooting guard who can't shoot.
By the time Billups returned to the Pistons last summer, expectations for both players were low, and neither figured into the team's long-term plans. Billups was a fading star returning to the team where he enjoyed his most success while Stuckey was a sixth-man playing out his contract.
Injuries limited Billups to just 19 games, marking four seasons in a row that he's appeared in fewer than 22. When the Pistons decided against picking up Billups' $2.5 million player option, a lot of people assumed he'd retire and begin the next phase of life in the NBA, either as a coach, executive or broadcaster. Instead, he's been working out in Las Vegas, weighing all of his options while seriously considering an 18th season as a player. He recently spoke about his decision to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy:
"Obviously, I have several options; I have some front office opportunities, some coaching opportunities, some media opportunities and also some playing opportunities," Billups told Basketball Insiders. "There’s a lot going on right now."
[...] "As far as me playing, I feel really good right now for the first time in a long time -- in two or three years," Billups said. "I know that in the right situation, I can really help a team win. But it would take the right situation. I’m not going to play just to play. I have nothing left to prove and I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish playing basketball, so it would take the right situation for me to play.
"Of course, winning [is the biggest factor]. I’ve always considered myself to be a winner. I want to play for something; I don’t just want to play, I want to play to win. That’s the number one criteria – a team that has championship aspirations. And not just a team that’s saying it, but a team that could possibly do it. As far as my role on the team, I’m going to be 38 years old, so I’m not going to say I need to be a starter or I need to play this amount of minutes or anything. Those are things you kind of carve your way through as camp and the season go on. We would work our way through that and I certainly have no demands on that. I just know that with my health and what I can do, I’ll be able to carve my niche and help, that’s for sure."
While it's possible that Billups still has something to offer, he may not get a chance to prove it until most of the younger free agent dominoes begin to fall. If he signs a contract at all, it likely won't be until a few weeks before the start of the season after contending teams have exhausted all of their other options.
Stuckey, for different reasons, is also waiting -- but he may not need to wait much longer. Now that players like Kyle Lowry, Shaun Livingston, Patty Mills, Avery Bradley, Jodie Meeks and Darren Collison have come to terms on new contracts, Stuckey could be in the next wave of guards to be picked up.
He's yet to be mentioned in many rumors, but it was reported Wednesday that he had a meeting with the Indiana Pacers lined up today:
Pacers are reportedly meeting with Rodney Stuckey tomorrow. To my knowledge, they have no room to sign him as a FA— Tim Donahue (@TimDonahue8p9s) July 2, 2014
However, they could conceivably use a trade exception from Granger deal for about $4.2mm.— Tim Donahue (@TimDonahue8p9s) July 2, 2014
Or, of course, other type of S&T, though DET would have to take salary back in that case. However, SVG might like Cope.— Tim Donahue (@TimDonahue8p9s) July 2, 2014
I can't imagine the Pistons would seriously entertain a sign and trade until the Isaiah Thomas situation plays itself out -- not to mention the Pacers figure out what's going to happen with Lance Stephenson -- but it's certainly a possibility down the road. Either way, Stuckey will likely have a difficult time finding a contract as lucrative as his last deal in Detroit, a 3-year deal that paid him $25 million. Stay tuned.
Where do you think Billups and Stuckey will end up?