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News » Pistons pumped to face Billups-led Nuggets for first time since trade

Pistons pumped to face Billups-led Nuggets for first time since trade

Pistons pumped to face Billups-led Nuggets for first time since trade
Jan. 9--DENVER -- As Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups goes through pregame warm-ups tonight, you just know his eyes are going to wander down to the other end of the court.

There he will see the very familiar red, white and blue uniform as his former Pistons teammates go through drills.

And you will have to excuse one of the main ringleaders of the Pistons' recent success for feeling a little strange.

"I'm sure it will be (odd), especially at the start," Billups said of playing against his old team. "But at some point, instincts kick in and you're just trying to win a game."

Tonight will be the first time Billups faces his former team since he was a part of the trade that stunned the Basketball world more than two months ago.

And while there will be some time for strolls down Memory Lane for the Pistons and Billups as they recall the 2004 NBA title, the near miss in 2005 and the Eastern Conference finals appearances, both teams aren't going to let sentiment get in the way of going for a much-needed victory.

Pistons power forward Rasheed Wallace is hoping his cranky right foot won't cause him to miss his fourth straight game because this one is for bragging rights.

"It'll be like old times again before I came here to Detroit," Wallace said of when he faced Billups as a member of the Trail Blazers. "It's going to be fun, talking junk to him and having fun with him."

Similar sentiments have come from several members of the Pistons throughout the week as they have been asked multiple times about the game.

Rip Hamilton, who took the trade hard and has missed six games in a row with a left groin tear, indicated after Wednesday night's loss at Portland that he couldn't let Billups get the best of him and he would try to make it back as well.

Besides the matchup with Billups, the Pistons will get a chance to measure themselves against one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

After the Nuggets toppled the visiting Miami Heat on Wednesday night, they were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 25-12 record -- only 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers, who are tied for the best record in Basketball with Cleveland at 28-6.

And the catalyst has been Billups, who has jelled with superstar forward Carmelo Anthony to form a formidable one-two punch.

Billups, who spent six seasons with the Pistons, is averaging 18.0 points and 6.9 assists per game as the Nuggets have rolled to a 24-9 record since the trade.

Billups appears to be just what the doctor ordered to unleash the talents of Anthony, who will miss the next three to four weeks with a fractured right hand.

But the Nuggets didn't miss a beat against the Heat as Billups finished with 21 points, six assists and three steals.

It's almost as if Billups has been playing with the Nuggets for years. Nuggets' officials aren't surprised that the adjustment has been seamless.

"When you have a big-time, quality veteran point guard and a big-time, quality veteran head coach, it ain't going to take them long," Nuggets vice president of Basketball operations Mark Warkentien said of Billups and Nuggets coach George Karl.

Despite the loss to the Blazers, the Pistons have won 10 of their last 13 after a rocky time following Iverson's arrival.

The team is now 21-12 (17-12 with Iverson) and has the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Pistons appear to be getting acclimated to Iverson's game, which features fearless forays to the basket. Iverson has deferred to his talented teammates and hasn't been the shot-per-minute gunner he was known for for more than 13 seasons in the NBA.

So tonight will be a good test for both teams. But after a hard-fought battle, you just know there will be hugs among Billups and his former teammates, with whom he shared many battles.

Contact VINCE ELLIS at 313-222-6479 or Check out his Pistons blog at

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Added: January 9, 2009


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