Pistons look to the past to move forward

Chauncey Billups has returned to Detroit under a two-year contract.

Chauncey Billups has returned to Detroit under a two-year contract.

If the Detroit Pistons stage an old-timers’ game during their upcoming season, they won’t have to look far to extend invitations. Chauncey Billups, the icy-veined point guard of the 2004 NBA Champs, has returned to Motown a week after the team hired Rasheed Wallace to be an assistant coach.

Billups and Wallace spent parts of six seasons together as key members of the “Go To Work” Pistons who won the ’04 NBA title and drove their way to five straight Eastern Conference Finals. That was the last time this franchise was relevant, but with the return of Billups to the court and Wallace to a prime seat on the bench, as well as several other off-season roster moves, Deeeeeetroit Baaaaaasketball may be on its way back.

A day before “Mr. Big Shot” was signed to a two-year deal, the Chicago Bulls released Richard “Rip” Hamilton, another one of the gang who stood with Sheed and Chauncey during the good old days. Could Rip be on his way back too? It remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a shocker. GM Joe Dumars seems to be in a sentimental mood.

But the Billups signing is not nostalgic – it’s meant to address a real need for these current Pistons – the need for a true point guard. Billups will be 37 when the 2013-14 seasons starts, hardly the ideal age for a point guard who will be expected to manage a young team. But, Billups won’t be expected to chew up 35 minutes of playing time like he did back in the day. He’s more likely to flow in and out of a rotation that will include Brandon Knight, Will Bynum, and possibly draft pick Peyton Siva. First-year coach Maurice Cheeks will likely rely heavily on Billups to manage the tempo for this team.

Dumars identified three areas where the Pistons needed to improve: athleticism, shooting, and point guard play. Free agent signee Josh Smith addresses the first need, first round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Italian free agent Luigi Datome were brought in to address need #2, and Billups and Siva give Detroit their only true point guards. If graded on how he addressed their needs, Dumars gets at least a B+ for his work this off-season. Whether or not the moves translate to wins and a playoff berth will be the ultimate test for Dumars and the Pistons front office.

Who knows? Maybe Hamilton is on his way back too? The veteran with the constant motor has the shooting touch the Pistons need from deep range on the hardwood. But, even if Rip doesn’t return, the Pistons have some of their championship swagger back. Now they hope that will rub off on the young players who want to win the 4th championship for Detroit.