Third Time a Charm

Billups, Hamilton All-Star teammates again
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars remain the gold standard of Pistons backcourts, but in one important metric Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton are closing the gap. When Billups and Hamilton were named All-Stars together for the third consecutive year Thursday night, it moved them one off the four straight Thomas and Dumars achieved from 1990-93.

“It’s always tough to get there the first time, but the reason they’re there more than anything else is because the team wins,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “If they’re on a team that doesn’t win, they’re not going to get it.”

In addition to the two Pistons, the Eastern reserves as voted upon by NBA coaches are Toronto’s Chris Bosh, Washington’s Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, Boston’s Paul Pierce and Atlanta’s Joe Johnson. The five starters are Boston’s Kevin Garnett, Cleveland’s LeBron James, New Jersey’s Jason Kidd, Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

“I’m excited,” Hamilton said. “I’m geeked. It just tells you what type of team success we have. It’s another great opportunity to go with Billups. That’s always fun. We came in together and it feels like we can accomplish a lot of things together. I’m blessed and happy.”

“For me, it’s a team award,” Billups said. “I got out there and I’m not racing around, going crazy trying to make it. I’m just trying to win games. I’m just trying to play the right way and play for my teammates and I’m glad the other coaches recognize that.”

Hamilton missed most of the preseason with a sprained ankle and sat out the first two regular-season games to attend the birth of his son and got off to a slow start, but he’s been on a tear lately and has upped his scoring average to a team-leading 19.0. Hamilton is shooting 50 percent overall and is among the league leaders in 3-point percentage at 47 percent.

Billups is averaging 17.9 points a game and has an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio, 7.1-2.0. He’s shooting 46 percent overall and 41 percent from the 3-point line.

“They’ve clearly been, this year, the best backcourt as far as a combo,” Saunders said. “They’ve been extremely consistent for us.”

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