Chauncey Billups forced his way into the MVP conversation last season by posting career marks by in scoring (18.5 ppg), assists (8.6 apg), and three-point shooting (.433). But after setting a new career high in minutes along the way, his play suffered in the playoffs (17.9 ppg, 6.5 apg, .340 3P%). Billups spoke with the Denver Post recently and admitted that he was in fact gassed:
The Pistons were eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals by the eventual champion Miami Heat.
"Honestly, I didn't take it that hard because, myself personally, I was spent," said Billups, a former University of Colorado star. "I was coming into games mentally strong and ready. And my body just wouldn't let me do what I do. I was just tired. Just burned out. And I've never had that feeling before."
Billups played a career-high 2,925 minutes last season, the third consecutive season he posted a career high in minutes.
I don't think the Pistons entered the year expecting Billups to carry such a load: in November, Billups averaged 33.8 minutes per game and Carlos Arroyo averaged 15.2 mpg. But it's clear looking at the monthly splits that Flip Saunders started to lose confidence in Arroyo early until eventually trading him in late February: in December Billups averaged 36.3 mpg, and Arroyo 12.5 mpg; in January Billups averaged 38.8 mpg, and Arroyo 9.9 mpg; and in February Billups averaged 37.4 mpg and Arroyo 9.5 mpg.
After Arroyo was dealt, the Pistons failed to pick up a bona fide backup point guard to replace him. Tony Delk and Lindsey Hunter helped a little bit, but Billups still averaged 38.0 mpg in March. It wasn't until well into April, the final month of the regular season, that Billups started to see more rest. After averaging over 37 minutes in the first four games, he averaged less than 24 minutes over the next five before sitting out the final game completely. In hindsight, it was too little, too late.
On paper, Billups averaged less than half a minute more per game this past year than he did in 2004-05 (36.1 mpg vs. 35.8), but that doesn't take into consideration all of the extra playoff games Billups has played or the fact that he set a new career high in games started last season. Plus, Chauncey averaged his most minutes from the middle of the season to late in the year, with only about 10 days to coast in April before the start of the playoffs.
It should come as no surprise, then, what offseason move Chauncey hopes the Pistons will pull off:
"I'd like to have a good, quality backup point guard because you never know what happens," Billups said.
Chauncey also commented on losing Ben Wallace...
"Of course I'm hurt," Billups said. "I lost my hog. We built something real special out there together. We were both captains of the team for the last four years. It put a dent in me a little bit, but I'm happy for Ben. I'm proud of him."
... and his own status at the end of the next season, when he can opt-out of his current contract:
The Pistons' next contractual concern could be Billups, who likely will opt out of his contract next summer, forgoing $6.8 million for the 2007-08 season in order to become a free agent. But the 2004 NBA Finals MVP said he "loves" Detroit and his "heart" is with the Pistons.
"It's probably a pretty good chance that I will opt out if everything goes the way we hope it will," he said.
Assuming Chauncey opts out as planned, should the Pistons break the bank to re-sign him? He'll be 31 years old by the time the 2007-08 season starts -- how many years and how many tens of millions of dollars will he be worth? That's another topic for another time, but I'm putting the early line at whether or not he actually stays with Detroit at an even 50-50 -- nothing will surprise me.
Rested Billups looking for help [Denver Post, link from Freethrow]