View Full Version : OT: A must read about Chauncey Billups' path...

05-14-2009, 06:10 PM

ENVER -- One of Chauncey Billups' ex-teammates -- and there are about a hundred of them -- has his nose pressed against a TV set. The Denver Nuggets have just called time, in the middle of a tight playoff game, and the ex-teammate can't help but notice Chauncey rounding up all the players, all the misfits and flakes, and poking a finger in their chests.

If only these Nuggets understood the history behind this -- because there are pieces of Chauncey Billups strewn all over the league. He might have just rescued George Karl's job and Carmelo Anthony's résumé, but don't be fooled: Billups was once a mystery himself. His eyes are wiser now and his scars are healed, but no elite player in these NBA playoffs has been kicked to the curb as often as he has. None spent their first five seasons on six different teams. None has suited up for 10 different coaches. None has been forced to spend a 12th NBA season revalidating himself.

In a league obsessed with LeBron, Kobe and D-Wade, Chauncey might actually be the one to emulate -- a sturdy playmaker who, mid-career, asked to be taught how to make plays. But now the journey ends where it began, a mile above sea level, with Chauncey teaching his own mercurial team how to pay attention to detail. It's why a zoo of an arena chants "MVP, MVP" in his direction. And it's why his former teammate from Minnesota, a friend he used to call "Unc," wishes he could jump through that TV screen, into that huddle … and tell the Nuggets the whole story. The whole story of "Smooth."

The Pepsi Center, Denver, Nov. 7, 2008
Chauncey's driving to the arena -- from Poplar Street -- for his Nuggets debut against the Mavs, and as he approaches the arena, he sees "Welcome Home" signs and his picture on a billboard. He's got something special for his hometown fans tonight: When he peels off his warm-up suit after introductions, they see his number: No. 7. For John Elway. He wants to be their John Elway.

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Chauncey donned No. 7 in hopes of becoming Denver's new John Elway.
Chauncey is Denver, through and through, and he senses playing at home is going to work this time. Most of the friends and family who begged for tickets 10 years before are older, married and self-sufficient. The knuckleheads are no longer in his life. He can just play ball. Ray and Faye, married 35 years, are seated in the fifth row. Ray keeps checking his watch. He still needs to get up at 3:30 for work the next morning. Here's Chauncey in his 12th year in the NBA, and here's Ray is in his 32nd year in a Safeway warehouse. Ray plans to retire at the end of the season, but not now. Go figure.

After halftime, Chauncey nods to his parents … and starts to attack. He hits an 18-footer and a 3-pointer to start the third period. Always the third quarter, just like in Detroit. He wants this game badly, to prove to the Pistons, to everybody, he's not done. He had spoken to Hamilton earlier in the day, before the Pistons played at New Jersey, and told Hamilton, jokingly, "Hope you lose." Hamilton laughed back.

With 2:54 left in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets are clinging to a 99-98 lead, when the ball goes out of bounds to the Nuggets underneath their own basket. Chauncey's fear is realized. The team has no out-of-bounds play. Karl just wants them to improvise, to use their basketball instincts, but Chauncey can't live that way. So he calls time.

In the huddle, they're all stumped. Smith tells Anthony: "He just got here, and he's calling timeouts?" But Chauncey waves them close and starts in: "Look, George, I need you to draw me up an out-of-bounds play, man, to get the ball in. Because if we don't and we turn the ball over and lose this game because we didn't have something, that just won't sit well with me."

Karl and the team's response is: wow.

05-14-2009, 06:57 PM
A very interesting journey he's had. Thanks for the link!

05-14-2009, 09:48 PM
My hero.