Saturday, May 16, 2009

Zahid: Appreciating Chauncey Billups, and a historical Nugget

Rizwaan Zahid, a Carleton student who has been a contributor to, and The Fight Network, also loves him some roundball, so he's shared some thoughts on the NBA playoffs.

It was an annihilation. It was a domination. It was easy and it was nearly a sweep. The Denver Nuggets raised eyebrows with the ease with which they downed the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semi-final, earning themselves some R&R as they await the winner of the Houston Rockets-L.A. Lakers series.

They've also kept the first two rounds interesting enough in a spring when a Kobe-LeBron showdown seems inevitable. There are two points I want to stress, one relating to the current team and the other historical. People who generally pay close attention to pro basketball at playoff time should start to appreciate Denver guard Chauncey Billups more, since he might just lead the team to its first championship series since 1976, when they played in the old American Basketball Association.

Billups has a knack for making people around him better. He doesn't seem to talk much, but he lets the ball do the talking. We may hear different things when he makes a good play, though. But his 3-ball, his quick passing and his elegant layups all say to me, that the Pistons should not have traded the Colorado native for Allen Iverson. Billups idolized current Pistons president Joe Dumars, who was a similar type of undersized combo guard, not a true point or 2-guard.

To think that he was traded in what is one of the worst trades in recent memory hurts probably every Pistons fan, especially considering how well he is doing and the fact that the Pistons won as many playoff games as the Raptors. Zero. It's hard to imagine that a player of this caliber was passed around like a bowl of popcorn. In fact, in his first four years, he was on four different teams! Boston, to Toronto, to Denver and then to Minnesota. After two years he ended up on Detroit where he really showed how much he has really developed.

Sure there was Big Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Richard (Rip) Hamilton, but I’m sure most of us can agree that the nucleus was Chauncey. He found Rasheed on the baseline for the threes and also on the inside for the fade away. He also dished it out to Prince for his jumpers and made precision passes to Hamilton when he cut into the lane.

Now with the Nuggets, he has a new roster to improve and players have improved, especially Carmelo Anthony. Billups' grace that he displayed on the court with Detroit is the same grace he has shown with the Nuggets, and he may cleverly and skillfully lead the Nuggets to their first conference title, NBA Finals, and perhaps his own second championship ring.

The road may be tough, but hey this is the NBA Playoffs and much more surprising things have happened, including the '04 final, where his Detroit Pistons upset the Lakers in five games. Oh, did I mention that he was the MVP that year?

As I noted, Denver is vying for their first final since 1976, when they lost to Julius Erving and the New York Nets in the ABA's swan song. The Nuggets franchise was originally called the Denver Rockets and they could end up playing the Houston Rockets. For anyone wondering, the Nuggets adopted their name new while still in the ABA to avoid a potential conflict. The Rockets name was taken from the original owner's trucking company.

The Nuggets have had successful teams, but out of the four survivors from the ABA, the others being Indiana, New Jersey and San Antonio, Denver is the only team that has never appeared in the NBA Finals. Could this be the year that this changes?

With Chauncey Billups, it very well could.

No comments: