Chauncey Billups Makes His Return to Motown

Mr. Big Shot Returns to the Pistons

click to enlarge Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups

It can’t be easy being an old man in a young man’s game.

But that didn’t hold back Chauncey Billups, aka Mr. Big Shot, from making some noise last Wednesday during the Pistons’ season-opening victory over the Washington Wizards.

The 37-year-old Billups is playing in his 17th NBA season. Finding himself in last week’s starting lineup, Billups didn’t look a day older than when he came to Detroit from the Timberwolves in 2002.

Between 2002 and 2008, Billups spent six seasons and two games wearing a Pistons uniform. During his time in Detroit, he won over the hearts of Detroiters everywhere with his magical right hand, clutch performances and bald head. You weren’t cool unless you were rocking your Chauncey Billups jersey and your Ben Wallace afro to Pistons’ games in the mid 2000s.

Not only was he a fan favorite because of his cool demeanor and very normal personality, he played an instrumental role in bringing an NBA championship back to Detroit. Here’s a stat for you: In his six seasons in Detroit, the Pistons went at least to the Eastern Conference finals every year. Coincidence? I think not.

Trading away Billups was one of the biggest mistakes Joe Dumars made in his tenure as the Pistons’ GM (probably doesn’t top the Darko draft pick, though).

I would compare it to the Tigers’ Granderson trade — besides the fact that, in hindsight, the Granderson trade has panned out relatively well for the Tigers — both the Tigers and Pistons shipped star players and two of the most popular guys in Detroit in a questionable trade.

At this stage in his career, Billups won’t be the reason the Pistons finally make the playoffs; at least not directly.

Though there’s speculation Mr. Big Shot could potentially play shooting guard, his old role is taken; once Brandon Jennings returns from his injury, he’s slotted to be the team’s starting point guard. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play this season just as he left off.

We got an inkling of what he might do for the Pistons this season last Wednesday. His stat line read: 38 minutes played, four-for-eight from the floor, four-for-five from behind the arc, and 16 points — the old, “shoot better from three-point land than inside the arc.” When Jennings comes back, Billups’ minutes will likely drop, which is probably for the best: Remember, this is a young man’s game.

But they don’t call him Mr. Big Shot for nothing. As the Wizards mounted a comeback, Billups stepped up and hit a couple of fourth quarter 3-pointers to let Detroit breathe a little easier. He was also a calming veteran presence to some of the younger Pistons.

So, though Billups likely will play a different role with this edition of the Pistons than in 2004, he can have a similar impact. After Billups, the oldest player in what appears to be the normal starting lineup is Josh Smith at 27 years old; Andre Drummond (20), Greg Monroe (23) and Brandon Jennings (24) are kids compared to Billups.

These young guns could be the future of the organization, but they’ll need some guidance along the way and Billups is just the man for that job.

The beautiful thing about Billups’ return — and him wearing the same number — is that all those No. 1 jerseys you’d see in the stands all the years since he left Detroit are applicable again. Not that Billups’ absence from the Pistons’ roster ever stopped you from proudly wearing it to games before, but now you can rep it without even thinking twice.

Billups may be old, but if there’s one thing we know, it’s that he can still shoot. While his teammates have changed, his role has changed, and even the city has changed (it was in slightly better financial shape last time he was in town), Billups is still dropping 3-pointers like it’s nobody’s business. He’ll always be known in Detroit as “Mr. Big Shot.”

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