NBA: Denver Gets Their Man in Billups

November 4th, 2008
Travis Heath   
Chauncey Billups grew up in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood playing basletball at Skyline Recreation Center.  Everyone in town knew the kid was pretty good.  However, no one had an idea just how good he would become.  

As a result of a bold move by the Denver Nuggts on Monday, Billups will now get a chance to finish his career back at home in the Mile High City.

In order to get the deal done, the Nuggets had to part with future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.  It was not an easy decision, but it's a decision the Nuggets felt they had to make if they wanted to have a chance to truly compete in the Western Conference.

"Our overall kind of driving force behind this is you know you have to give up a whale of a player to get a whale of a player," said Denver Vice President of Player Personnel Rex Chapman.  "Allen being in the last year of his contract we wanted to be sure and get a quality player, or players, in return."

The Nuggets and Pistons reportedly held trade discussions this summer but nothing got done.  Chapman indicated talks between the two teams heated up very quickly over the weekend.

"It all happened very quickly the last few days," Chapman said.  "The last couple of days from Joe (Dumars) in Detroit to Mark (Warkentien) here doing a terrific job, it all came very quickly.  Things kind of spread like wildfire with the internet and today's media, of course."

When asked about consummating such a big trade now as opposed to doing it during the summer, Chapman replied: "I think you see teams that are trying to accomplish different things (in the summer).  You get into the regular season and things get a little more urgent.  Teams become a little bit more serious about actually making a deal and you're not necessarily trying to fleece somebody once the season gets started."

As a former player, Chapman acknowledged that making a deal during the season can be tough, but he indicated it was a move the organization felt would make the team better in the long-run.

"I think that it can be a tough situation for players because aside from being teammates these guys are friends and they spend so much time around one another.  All of our guys, to a person, get along with Allen and have an allegiance.  You always have an allegiance to guys that are on your team.  We also have guys that are friends with Chauncey because he has a summertime home here, so it can be kind a strange dynamic.  But most of these guys are older guys who have been through these things before, and I think they'll handle it well."

The move has given the Nuggets the true point guard the team has been coveting all summer long and has Denver head coach George Karl excited about the future.

"It came onto my radar screen the past couple of days," Karl said of the trade.  "I think it fits the organization's plan.  I think there's some financial responsibility there that makes the organization excited.  I think there's an excitement of balancing the talent on the roster as a coach that excites me.  I think in a lot of ways from a personnel standpoint it was a homerun.

"I think for me I get more of a point guard leadership on the court.  And the other thing I think that comes to my mind is our shooting.  When I watch other teams and how they win basketball games, it's quite different.  They win basketball games by using the three-point arc, and we don't use it very well.  With Chauncey being a 40 percent three-point shooter, we now have the power to play in and out.  We have power to post-up Nene and Melo better because we have a three-point shooter on the line."

"I think it will make us a different team," Chapman added.  "In today's game (Billups) would be considered a pure point guard.  He's a guy who can stroke the basketball, he's got one of the of the best strokes in the NBA.  He's strong, can defend, just a terrific teammate.

"Chauncey is really everything you want in a point guard, in today's game, anyway.  Coming out of Colorado years ago he might not have been considered a traditional point guard.  But with the way the game is today, being able to shoot, run the team like he can and especially defend, it's going to be a big plus for us.  It will allow us to put J.R. in there and see if he can flourish even more.  I think this gives us a starting five, theoretically, that might be as good as there is in this league with Chauncey, J.R., Kenyon, Carmelo, and Nene.  We're going to need some good health from our bigs, but we're excited about it."

While Denver most definitely wanted to get better if they opted to trade Iverson, owner Stan Kroenke made it clear he wanted to respect everything Iverson has done for the game and make sure he was moved to a contender.

"One thing that I want to point out is that Stan, if we were going to move Allen, did not want to move Allen to just anybody," Chapman explained.  "He wanted to be sure that we were going to send him to a team that has great tradition and is a contender year in and year out, and we feel like we were able to accommodate Allen in moving him to Detroit.

"I think this is a deal that makes a great deal of sense for both teams.  I know you hear that a lot and it might sound corny, but I really believe it does."

The Nuggets, of course, are hopeful Billups can make them a contender.  And based on what Karl observed when his good friend Larry Brown coached Billups on a championship team during the 2003-04 season, Karl believes Billups will enjoy life with the Nuggets.

"I spent time with Larry and some of his frustrations with Chauncey the year they won the championship," Karl said.  "Larry is a perfectionist.  I think Chauncey will probably enjoy how we play and how he'll be able to direct a little bit more because I think Larry wants perfect possessions.  I just want fast tempo and good basketball.  There's a little different mentality there.  Larry's probably a little bit more of a possession coach, and I'm more of a pace coach.  We have great players for Chauncey to make better."

One of those great players is Carmelo Anthony.  On a personal level Anthony was very close with Iverson, so the initial loss of Iverson hit Anthony hard.

"It happened so fast," Anthony said.  "After (Saturday's) game we talked about putting the Laker game behind us and getting ready for Golden State.  I don't know if he knew something before that game or not, but like I said it's always tough when you lose a teammate and a friend at the same time.

"To come here this morning and hear the news, I didn't know what to expect.  I went from having a headache to a migraine when I found out."

While Iverson will be missed by Anthony and the rest of the team off the court, Anthony is excited about what the change might mean for him on the hardwood.

"His résumé is long," Anthony said of Billups.  "From hitting big shots, to winning a championship, to coming up big in the big games, just to being a point guard and running the team.  We're looking forward to it.  I don't think it's as hard to integrate Chauncey because he is a point guard, he is a guy who can run a team and has run a team.  He's a scorer's dream. 

"Another thing he brings is defense.  His mentality and his toughness really helps us in the direction that we're trying to go on the defensive end."

Karl agreed that Billups will be an asset to the Nuggets given the team's newfound commitment to the defensive end of the floor.

"Chauncey is a bigger guard and has the ability to play over the defense.  A.I. never had the ability to play over the defense.  I think at times everybody saw that we were too small at the guard position, especially in the playoffs.  The playoffs is where teams can incorporate offenses to where your weak-side has two six-footers over there.  I think Chauncey and Melo can be a fantastic combination."

The Nuggets are hopeful Billups will be able to play in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

"I don't know exactly when Chauncey is going to get in," Chapman said.  "He's on the first flight out of Charlotte to Detroit to pick-up some things and then get here as quickly as possible.  I know he wants to get here."

If for some reason he can't play on Wednesday, you can rest assured he'll be ready to go when the Nuggets host the Dallas Mavericks at Pepsi Center on Friday.

"Chauncey, being from Denver, I know he's looking forward to coming back and playing in front of the hometown fans," Chapman said with a smile.

As for what Karl's rotation may be now with Billups in town, the coach cautioned people about jumping to conclusions.

"I think (Anthony Carter) and Chauncey will be on the court together some, it won't just be J.R.  I think adding two guys who can make playmaking decisions and defend the hell out of the game, I think at the end of the game you might see those guys finish the game at the defensive end of the court.

"If I had to say tomorrow, Dahntay (Jones), (Anthony Carter) and Chauncey as a defensive team on the court would be interesting."

One concern people in Denver have about Billups is the fact he's 32 years of age and under contract until the summer of 2011, which begs the question of whether or not he will be able to stay healthy and productive for the duration of his contract.

"When John Stockton was 32 I said he was over the hill and I was wrong for about eight years," Karl quipped.  "Chauncey doesn't play with lightening speed.  He doesn't play with lightening speed, he plays with an edge.  I think he can sustain that for his contract."

The Chauncey Billups era is officially upon us in Denver.  In political terms, if there is one guy the Nuggets could have acquired who could "rally the base" it's Billups. 

There's no doubt after Monday's trade that things just got a lot more interesting this season in the Western Conference.