A lot of people have written about how Chauncey Billups has stepped into a leadership role this year with the Pistons. But what exactly does that mean? Chris McCosky explains. After noticing Carlos Delfino exhibiting a bad attitude during the first couple of weeks in the preseason, Billups intervened:
[Billups] and a couple other veterans took Delfino out to dinner one night last week.
Billups got right to the point.
He asked Delfino, simply, "Are you with us or not?" Billups told Delfino the team was counting on him this season and if he didn't want to be here, speak up now. After Delfino assured him he did want to be here, Billups told him to start acting like it.
Whatever it is that's been bothering you, Billups said, let it go. It's not important. We've all gone through stuff in our careers. All that matters now is we need you with us. We need you to be a part of what we're trying to accomplish this season. We have to be able to trust you are with us.
President Joe Dumars and coach Flip Saunders could have said those same words to Delfino without having nearly the same effect. Once Billups reached out to Delfino, the change was almost immediate. Delfino began smiling more at practice. He made himself more available to his teammates, even allowing himself to get mixed up in some of Rasheed Wallace's high jinks. Delfino and Lindsey Hunter started their own postpractice shooting regimen.
Delfino, for now, is back in the fold.
I never gave it much thought before now, but McCosky suggests that there may have been some quiet, unspoken tension between Billups and Ben Wallace last season. While Wallace spent the season stewing about Flip Saunders' emphasis on offense, it Saunders' offense that allowed Billups to evolve into an MVP candidate and put up the best numbers of his career. When you think about it, it was basically impossible for both players to enjoy considerable individual success simultaneously, since that would require diverse styles of play.
While Billups claims that he's not doing anything differently than he did last season, it's obvious that he is: we never heard any stories of he rounding up some of the other veterans and telling Wallace to stop brooding. Instead, Wallace more or less set the tone, which led to other players publicly airing their grievances with Saunders once things got tight in the playoffs.
If Billups has truly embraced the top leadership role on this team, don't expect much tension between the players and Saunders this season. For one, Billups has always been a fan of SaundersBillups had become something of a journeyman early in his career before blossoming under Saunders in Minnesota. . But perhaps more importantly, another MVP-esque season will put more money in the bank after Billups opts out of his contract at the end of the season.
Chauncey Billups: 'I am a leader' [Detroit News]
UPDATE: I wrote this post before the Free Press updated their site with Wednesday's articles, but now that they're up, I'd like to add a pointer to Krista Jahnke's article about Billups' leadership. When did Billups truly realize he became the face of the franchise? During the team's first open practice of the summer:
During the pregame introductions at all home games, including that informal scrimmage, the team dances and fist-bumps and hand-slaps its way through a memorized routine. The order of introductions never changed. Billups went first. Ben Wallace, the team's biggest star, was saved for last.
This particular Saturday, Billups waited for his regular cue from athletic trainer Mike Abdenour, who always pulled him out of his seat. But Abdenour was nowhere to be seen. That's when it dawned on him.
"I'm like, 'Aw, they got me last now,' " Billups said. "Woooow."