|Billups back where he always intended to stay|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 30 July 2007 10:04|
He wasn't going to put them through it again.
``This is the first city and the first organization to show me love,'' Billups said Monday. ``They've helped me go from a pretty good player to an elite player, and I wasn't going to break their hearts.''
Billups spoke before teeing off in his annual charity golf tournament at a joint press conference with Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations. It was their first meeting with the media since Billups agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract earlier this month.
``You don't get many great players who are also great guys, and when you do, you don't let them go,'' Dumars said. ``We had to go through the process, but we knew it was imperative that we keep him.''
Billups was the third overall pick in 1997, but played for five teams in his first four seasons before coming to Detroit as a free agent in 2002.
He immediately took over the point guard job, led the Pistons to an NBA title in his second season and had them in Game 7 of the finals in 2005.
Even after losses to Miami and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals the last two years, Billups has become widely seen as one of the league's best point guards and clutch players.
``This is our captain, our point guard and our leader,'' Dumars said. ``Making this happen was a no-brainer.''
Billups had said all season that he hoped to stay in Detroit, and he acknowledged Monday that he might have hurt his own bargaining power in the process.
``A lot of teams probably didn't even bother, because they knew my heart was in Detroit,'' he said. ``This is where my family wants to be, because this is where we've made our home.''
While Billups did say there were ``plenty'' of teams that were making offers, he never took them seriously.
``I told my agent that Detroit got the first chance to sign me, and they also got the second, third and fourth chances,'' he said.
Billups struggled in Detroit's loss to Cleveland, which made him even more determined to stay with the Pistons.
``The way the season ended - that hurt, man,'' he said. ``I know this is an elite team that can still win championships. I still believe we were the best team last year, no matter what happened against Cleveland, and I'm going to stay here and prove that.''
The loss to the Cavaliers also pushed Billups in his stint with the U.S. team as it prepares for next month's Olympic qualifying tournament.
``That was cool,'' he said. ``After we lost, it let me get back on the court right away, and it was even better to have Tayshaun (Prince) playing with me.''
Billups thinks the current American roster has the balance that the team that won bronze in Athens never had.
``We've got veterans who have been through the wars,'' he said. ``They already had a good team, but when you add me and Kobe and Jason (Kidd), that's a lot of leadership.''
Billups said that his national-team duty had kept him from paying close attention to the Tim Donaghy scandal, but he knew enough to be shocked.
``You never expect to hear something like that, and I always thought Timmy was a pretty good referee,'' he said. ``It's going to be hurtful, because our referees already take a lot of abuse. I just hope this was an isolated incident.''