Friday, January 09, 2009

Journeyman Billups, Hall Of Famer? He Has A Chance

We already know Allen Iverson's fate. It'll involve a speech in Springfield, Mass., sometime within the next ten years, as he is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It won't matter one lick if Iverson wins his elusive NBA Championship. Won't matter if his teams never win another playoff game. The dude is going into the Hall, hands down. The Ernie Banks of basketball, but he'll be in.

Chauncey Billups? Not so sure.

Billups' legacy has a lot more on the line than Iverson's, and it's appropriate to muse about it today, because the Pistons are in Denver tonight -- the first meeting between Iverson and Billups since being traded for each other on Nov. 3.

By all accounts, the Nuggets must be thrilled with the deal. They are 24-9 since shipping Iverson, aka The Answer, away. Perhaps "the answer" was to trade A.I. But it's still way too early to judge this trade, although sports fans are about as patient and reasonable about such things as a hungry child wanting his dinner.

It doesn't matter what Iverson accomplishes from this point on, but with Billups, he may have a chance to put himself into play when it comes to Hall consideration.

If Billups, who already has one more title under his belt than Iverson, manages to be the guy to lead the Nuggets to their first-ever championship, then Chauncey's path to Springfield will have gotten a lot less bumpy.

Billups was reduced to nothing more than a journeyman when the Pistons rescued him from Minnesota in 2001. Pistons President Joe Dumars, in an amazing display of clairvoyance, saw in Billups what the menagerie of teams prior to Detroit didn't: a starting point guard who could be entrusted with running a team without fear of being yanked at the first hint of trouble. The Nuggets, by the way, were one of those teams who had a crack at Chauncey as he made his way through the NBA. They needed two tries to get it right with Billups; Dumars only needed one.

Dumars is in the Hall of Fame for more than just being a fine basketball player.

Billups can really put a stamp on things here. He's in his hometown, leading the Nuggets to one of their best regular season starts in history. The Lakers and Spurs are still the measuring bar in the West, but Billups has bucked the odds before. He was Finals MVP in 2004, when the Pistons upset the Lakers in what has been called a "five-game sweep."

If he does it again, and manages to pull the Nuggets through the Western Conference playoffs and into the Finals, that will go a long way in cementing Billups' place among guards of his generation.

If this photo repeats with Billups in a Nuggets uniform, the Hall may call

Isiah Thomas was no journeyman. Nor was Magic Johnson. Same with Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Tim Duncan. They won championships with the teams that drafted them. They didn't bip-bop around the league, being cut and traded and benched. Journeymen don't make the Hall of Fame.

Billups would be the first, if some things fall into place for him.

You'd need half the plaque just to list all of his teams, for crying out loud.

Journeymen coaches make the Hall of Fame. That's been confirmed. Reason? As long as they win, who cares how many stops they've made?

So why can't that theory apply to players?

Chauncey Billups has an opportunity to pave his way to Springfield. We'll see.

No comments: