Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)

A Message from Chauncey

Unable to put on Pistons uniform, Mr. Big Shot offers pointed observations
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Chauncey Billups came home not to take a victory lap around the NBA in a Pistons uniform, but to restore the pride that name across the front of the jersey not so long ago fostered in those lucky enough to wear it.

He came to lead, but not from the rear. Joe Dumars sold him on the value his 3-point shot and fourth-quarter savvy would hold for a young team built around Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and fortified with marquee veteran pickups Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

A balky left knee that has limited him to 19 games has made that impossible. Billups – who said his rehabilitation from minor surgery late last month is going well and he still hopes to return before the season ends – knows that, at 37, the clock is ticking on him. And while it’s frustrating enough to hear that ticking while the games keep flying by with him in street clothes, it’s made more painful to sit while his team repeats mistakes in March that cost them games in November.

But Billups long ago became masterful at shaping the message he wants his team to hear while speaking in a public forum, so it wasn’t frustration bending every subject back to a common theme as he spoke to reporters after Thursday’s practice. It was a calculated message, intended for the 14 sets of ears who share that Pistons uniform with him.

  • On needing to string wins together after not winning more than three in a row for more than three months:

    “It’s tough to be confident when you haven’t played well. People don’t feel sorry for you in this league. If they can beat you, they beat you. … I just feel like losing doesn’t hurt to most of our guys. It just doesn’t hurt. People don’t take it personal. And if you don’t, people are going to beat you every night. Because everybody needs a win in this league. No matter if you’re on a winning streak or a losing streak, everybody wants and needs a win. If it just doesn’t hurt, then it’s going to keep happening.”

  • On whether repeated mistakes were the result of mental errors or insufficient effort: “I think both. Nobody really wants to lose, but there’s a price to pay for winning and I don’t think, overall as a team, we’re not willing to pay the price right now. If the games all ended at halftime, shoot, we might be a three or four seed. But when the games get tough and you’ve got to play with your heart and your will, we fall off every time.”

  • On if fourth-quarter shot selection is at the root of the late-game issues:

    “The fourth quarter, that’s a different quarter than any quarter in the game. Obviously, you’re going to play a little harder in the fourth quarter because it means more, you value possessions more and the tough-minded teams will win most fourth quarters. Some of the shots we shoot are like turnovers and we don’t get that. In fairness to us, we don’t have a lot of guys that have played meaningful games, but that’s no excuse. You do it all the first part of the season. At some point, you’ve got to learn something. If you don’t, shame on us, man.”

  • On why the defensive chemistry hasn’t clicked this season:

    “Our defense has struggled mightily this season. I think first and foremost, defense is about effort. There are concepts involved and there are principles involved, (but) defense is all what’s inside of you. You’ve got to want to play defense because it’s not fun all the time. Offense is fun. But I just think that if it’s in you to go out and get a stop, then you can do that. If it’s not, then people are just going to run all over you.”

  • On what advice he would give Andre Drummond in advance of playing against Minnesota star Kevin Love on Friday night:

    “When you’re facing a guy like Kevin, who’s a very good rebounder – as Dre is – it’s all about your will now. You’ve got to keep a body on him, you’ve got to pay attention to him, there can’t be a lot of slippage throughout the game. Because he’s trying to do the same thing to you. So it becomes a mental game and those are some of the things Dre is hopefully starting to learn.”

The Pistons have 21 games remaining and certainly have to win more than they lose, at minimum, to have a shot at making up the ground necessary to overtake Atlanta for the No. 8 playoff berth. They can’t wait for Chauncey Billups to get healthy to start their push. They’re going to have to take his words to heart and go from there.