Billups Readies For Return To Palace

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Chauncey Billups acknowledges it will be emotional to play at The Palace for the first time as an ex-Piston.
Just wait until the Denver Nuggets guard hears and sees the reaction Tuesday night from fans who still adore him and wish he was still playing for their team.
Billups will likely hear one of the loudest ovations an ex-Detroit player has heard in his first game back in the Motor City.
It might only trail the outpouring of appreciation for Gordie Howe, when the Hall of Fame player known as Mr. Hockey was representing the Hartford Whalers in the 1980 NHL All-Star game at Joe Louis Arena.
"I'm sure it will be emotional," Billups said. "I had a lot of great years there. I'm sure it's always going to be my home away from home. It will be pretty emotional, but it will be a lot of fun."
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars -- the man who traded Billups -- has no doubt what kind of reception Billups will get.
"Chauncey should get a tremendous ovation," Dumars told The Associated Press on Monday. "And, he will get a tremendous ovation.
"He deserves it."
Detroit made the unpopular move to create playing time for second-year pro Rodney Stuckey, to clear about $20 million in salary cap space and to give the team a new look in the postseason.
In the short term, the trade hasn't helped the Pistons out. If they can add a star or two this summer or next, it might be viewed differently.
Billups was one of the most popular Pistons during his seven-plus seasons with the franchise he helped win the 2004 NBA title as finals MVP, advance to at least the Eastern Conference finals the past six years and win 50 or more games every year as an All-Star point guard.
Ben Wallace was the face of those teams, but Billups was the voice.
He was the first to speak to reporters after games -- win or lose -- and that in part led to fans getting to know one of the most likable players in the league.
Billups is looking forward to seeing the red-white-and-blue clad fans again and perhaps chatting a few up at courtside.
"It will be fun to get back to that city that I love so dearly, the fans that I love so dearly," Billups said.
His fame in Detroit has only grown this season because the Pistons have plummeted from NBA elite to mediocre status since he was traded to Denver on Nov. 3, 2008 along with Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb for Allen Iverson.
The Pistons got McDyess back, but they lost their direction on the court and their rate of success.
They are 29-29 overall and even worse with Iverson, going 22-28 with him in the starting lineup.
Iverson has been out for two games with a back injury and will miss at least a third game Tuesday night, awaiting results of an examination.
Denver, meanwhile, has risen to the top of the Northwest Division thanks in large part to Billups' presence.
With a chance to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs next month, Billups hopes he can focus on the task at hand and not the fans in the stands when he makes his anticipated return to Detroit.
"Bottom line is, I just want to win," he said. "It will be emotional, sure, but once we jump that ball up, all that's out the window."


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