There comes a time when even the greatest of warriors have to give in. They may still have the heart, but their body restricts them in ways that it can be hard to accept. The greatest champions can be pragmatic though, as Detroit Pistons legend Chauncey Billups has shown in the past couple of days. In conversation with David Mayo of MI Live, Billups revealed his fears of his recent knee injury being one hurdle too many to overcome. Billups didn’t fight the old adage, admitting that “Father Time is undefeated, man … my gas light is on,” a statement that immediately put his future into sharp focus.
With the Pistons having a team option on his contract for next year, Billups health issues create true uncertainty. Always one of the smartest guys in the locker room, you get the sense that Billups is embracing the possibilities for the end of the season, because he understands the probabilities. His style of play seemed to allow him to maintain his level of play longer than most of his age. During his time with the Clippers, Billups showed himself to still be capable of being a big time performer. With a quality backcourt cast including Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford surrounding him, the Colorado native continued to thrive. In other words, as recently as 2012, Billups was averaging more than 15 points and four assists in 30 minutes a night. When decline sets in, it happens fast though.
After a slow season with the Clippers last year, Billups came back to Detroit once again. The Motor City is a source of great memories for Billups. Finding himself in the middle of his eighth season overall as a Piston in his illustrious playing career, Chauncey is destined to go down in franchise history with the likes of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman. Billups has done pretty much all there is to be done during his time in Detroit. The high points obviously came in 2004 as he led the Pistons to a title, and was crowned Finals MVP, but there were plenty of other highs too.
Multiple All-Star appearances and NBA All-Defensive teams are in the rear view mirror now, if this year’s numbers are to go by though. Having averaged 31.7 minutes per game for his career, it can’t be easy for Billups to be down to 16.3 minutes in only 19 appearances so far this year. Even more frustrating must be the fact that what were the fundamentals of his offensive game seem to have deserted him. From being one of the league’s premier perimeter shooters, Billups currently finds himself shooting a paltry 30.4 percent from the field, and 29.2 percent from downtown. At 3.8 points a game, his scoring average is almost five whole points lower than his previous career low. The drop in his own personal performance won’t be what bothers Billups the most though.
The competitor in him finds it almost impossible to stomach losing and that’s exactly what the Pistons have been doing this year. This is as big an influence as anything on his future, as Billups told Mayo, “It’s tough to do this. Especially on a team when we’re not a winning team at this stage.” Billups was meant to be the wily old veteran who’s experience and leadership would push the Pistons forward, but just like many other aspects of the Pistons current experiment, it never materialized. Billups owes nothing to the city of Detroit though, and his professional pride is likely nagging at him to leave while all the good memories are still intact.
Billups is one of the most professional and most liked players in the NBA, and if his knee was never to feel 100 percent again, his decision to call it a day would be applauded and respected. In other words, for one of the first times, the shot clock may be about to expire on Mr. Big Shot, but boy, has he one hell of a possession to look back on.