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2009, March 4: ESPN.com Daily Dime – Fitting Tribute In Billups’ Return to Detroit

March 20, 2009

 Fitting Tribute In Billups' Return to Detroit
By Jalen Rose
ESPN.com

March 4, 2009 — It was a classy move by the Detroit Pistons to allow their public address announcer to give Chauncey Billups the tribute he deserved Tuesday night. The fans came out and showed their support for a guy who was an NBA Finals MVP and who led the team to six straight Eastern Conference Finals.

Early in his career, Billups was bouncing around from team to team; then Joe Dumars brought him to Detroit, and that helped turn around Billups' image and his career.

If you are a Detroit fan, the game was the best of both worlds. Billups (season-high 34 points on 11-for-19 shooting and four assists) had an awesome game, but the Pistons got the much-needed home victory, 100-95.

You knew Billups was going to have that extra juice, because players always want to stick it to the team that traded them. That's just the way it is.

With Carmelo Anthony out, Billups knew he had to not only run the team but also be the go-to guy. He was the point guard for the Pistons, so even though Detroit has changed coaches a few times in the past few seasons, Billups still knows the strengths and weaknesses of the team and of each individual player.

He did all he could, but winning the game without one of Denver's best players proved to be too difficult a task.

After a rough stretch that included eight straight losses, the Pistons finally have a silver lining. They have regained their pride and competitiveness, and after having their backs against the wall, they look like a team that wants to compete again.

They have won three straight games, beating three straight division leaders in the process. In order for them to go to the next level, Allen Iverson, who has missed three straight games with a back injury, has to be willing to come off the bench and do what he can as a prolific scorer once he gets healthy.

I think he will. It is in the best interest of the team for him to buy into it. He'll be a free agent this summer and is looking for a contract from another team. Plus, it is a role he will have to learn to embrace as he gets older, especially playing for a contending team. I think he'll fall in line and do the best he can, which is a good thing for Detroit. Their bench was just 1-for-11 from the field against the Nuggets.

Denver is in the stacked Western Conference, where seeds No. 2 through No. 9 are separated by a total of six games. They can win a round in the playoffs if everything comes together for them.

They need Nene Hilario to stay healthy, as he has all season. They need to get defensive intensity from Kenyon Martin. Their best player can't be getting suspended. He has to be happy and productive for them to do anything.

The Billups-for-Iverson trade will be graded by how these teams do in the playoffs. The Pistons got rid of Billups because they knew they could still make the playoffs in the East, and the salaries of Billups and Rasheed Wallace come off the books this summer. Neither team wants to flame out in Round 1.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime