Billups wanted to retire in Detroit, and though his hometown Nuggets weren’t a completely undesirable destination, he just signed a long-term extension with the Pistons.
But those ingredients alone don’t warrant bitterness. Players getting traded is part of the business. Billups, whose ambitions include becoming a general manager, should understand that.
So, it’s still not clear exactly what contributed to the rift, but Tom Friend of ESPN provides some clues:
Though he has been traded three times before, it still stings. At the team hotel, on Nov. 2, Dumars and the coaches are staying right down the hall from him, but no one invites him down for a goodbye chat. Then, on the morning of Nov. 3, before the shootaround, it becomes official: Chauncey to Denver.
He’s going home again, but he calls Piper and tells her it feels bittersweet. “I’ve been through some dark alleys with them dudes, man,” he tells her. “They’re my brothers.”
He begins packing at the team hotel, when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Hamilton and Prince, the trio together one last time. They embrace, cry, laugh and reminisce. They call Ben Wallace, a Cavalier now, and put him on speaker phone. Wallace tells them, “I told you how they are.”
For what it’s worth, Ben Wallace returned to the Pistons after that. Billups and Dumars reconciled at some point in 2012 or earlier, too. Their relationship further healed when Dumars signed Billups earlier this month.
Billups on Dumars, via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:
“I just needed to hear him apologize for how it went down, to kind of stand on it, and he did that,” Billups said. “As a man, I can’t do anything but respect that.
“Because I had to know it was nothing personal, it was what he thought was a good business move. But we had a personal relationship. I forgave Joe for all of that and we moved forward. I’m great.”
This is a side of Dumars that Pistons fans haven’t really seen. As the Pistons have struggled through five straight losing seasons, Dumars has mostly remained in the shadows.
That might be the best course of action for someone who wants to avoid the spotlight – and Dumars, who built the 2004 championship team, certainly doesn’t owe any fans an apology – but Dumars’ approach also leaves fans feeling disconnected. A little forthrightness with the public could go a long way in repairing the Pistons’ reputation in an area where people have limited disposable income and other options how to spend it, just as it helped repair Dumars’ relationship with Billups.
Dumars has made mistakes, with Billups and with building a winning team. Billups appreciated Dumars admitting that, and fans would, too.
Of course, more than anything else, fans would appreciate a winner. Maybe Billups’ arrival will help the Pistons become one, and then nobody would mind Dumars remaining behind the scenes.