Being an Allen Iverson fan, watching his career since leaving Philly has been both painful and sad.
Now Chauncey Billups is adding to my anguish.
When the trade was first made to swap the two players, it wasn't clear to me or anyone else who got the better end of the deal.
Their numbers for the regular season were eerily similar.
Billups 17.9 ppg 6.4 assists compared to Iverson 17.4 ppg and 4.9 assists. Still everyone kept pointing to the record of the team pre and post trade. Which I thought was unfair considering that the Nuggets are vastly more talented than the Pistons.
When Denver locked up the No. 2 seed in the West, it still seemed like anyone could come out of the West to match-up against the Lakers in the West Finals. Especially since the Hornets team sports, in my humble opinion the best point guard in the league right now in Chris Paul.
Then came the ol' fashioned pasting the Nuggets put on the Hornets in Game One. This was Alex English, run the other team out of the gym basketball. No way can they play this way in Game Two. This series is going back to N'awlins 1-1.
So far this series the Nuggets have Nuggets have outscored the Hornets in all eight quarters of play, which in itself is impressive—but they also hold the edge in the major statistical categories:
Rebounding- 85 to 78.
Assists- 51 to 37.
Three point FG- 54.3 percent to 49.6 percent.
Field Goal- 50.4 percent to 41.5 percent.
Of course, it's not like Billups is responsible for all those stats, but he's a major contributor.
Averaging 33.5 ppg on 60 percent shooting (including a ridiculous 80 percent from three and 19 for 19 from the charity stripe) doesn't hurt the cause.
But that's not the reason he's a better man for the job than Iverson was. After all, Iverson never had a problem scoring.
It's the fact that Billups, whether people realize it or not, is the coach of the Denver Nuggets.
I know in the press guide it has that distinction going to George Karl, but all anyone has to do is look at the development (or lack thereof) of Carmelo Anthony to see the kind of "coach" he is. He may run the practice sessions, make the speeches, hand out the playing time, but Billups is who these players listen to.
And Billups has them playing their best basketball at the right time.
For whatever reason, be it his own choice or circumstance, it's the one thing Iverson was never able to do.
He was always able to elevate his game at the right time, take the crucial shot, but for all his abilities, getting the other four guys on the floor to do the same was not a strength of his.
Billups is doing the same thing for the Nuggets he always did so well for the Pistons, leading by example and leading by instruction. How else do you explain how the seemingly disinterested Pistons were able to turn it on in the playoffs year after year?
He lets guys know if they take a bad shot, or aren't hustling. Directs them to where they should be on floor offensively and defensively. He's the firm hand of guidance that neither Iverson or Coach Karl could be.
It's how the Nuggets went from being the best And-1 team in the NBA, to being a NBA team on the path to being a serious contender.
So sit back and enjoy the show.