The Carmelo Anthony trade is finally over, and the Denver Nuggets were actually able to squeeze a decent amount of talent out of the New York Knicks.
In doing so, the Nuggets have also parted ways with a hometown hero, a state legend, one of the most clutch players in NBA history and truly one of the best people in the NBA.
The loss of a veteran leader like Chauncey Billups will prove to be a big obstacle for the Nuggets to overcome. The departure of Billups will hurt the Nuggets more than any good Melo ever did for the team.
Billups was the innocent bystander in this trade. He never wanted to leave Denver; he is a native and a veteran that wanted to finish his career in the Mile High City. The Nuggets should have never let him go and should have never included him in these trade talks.
Billups appeared in seven straight conference finals (2003-09), becoming one of just five players since 1970 to do so, and is one of two players in NBA history, the other being Wilt Chamberlain, to have played for seven consecutive conference titles while with multiple teams.
On his way to those seven consecutive conference finals, Billups has appeared in 133 career postseason games and has averaged 17.7 PPG, 5.9 APG and 3.5 RPG. Billups has 11 career postseason double-doubles, two of which came as a member of the Nuggets.
Billups was chosen third overall in the 1997 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. Billups has played for Team USA, won the NBA Finals MVP in 2004 and is a five-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection. While helping the Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals, Billups was given the nickname "Mr. Big Shot" for having a knack at making late-game shots.
While at George Washington High School in Denver, Billups was a four-time All-State first team pick, Colorado Mr. Basketball three times and Colorado Player of the Year as a sophomore and as a junior.
During his two years at the University of Colorado, Billups averaged 18.5 points per game. In 1997, Billups led Colorado to its first NCAA Tournament victory in over 30 years by beating Indiana 80-62. That same season Billups was named to the Big 12 Conference First Team and the Basketball Times All-American First Team.
This is not just about basketball though. Billups has been a hero to the community of Denver. In February 2006 Billups announced his involvement in the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy with Regis University in Denver and pledged $100,000 to the program. The Porter-Billups Leadership Academy helps selected youths with life and educational goals and provides help with college tuition to attend Regis University.
Billups was the 2007-08 recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. The award is named for the second commissioner of the league and honors an NBA player or coach for outstanding service and dedication to the community. Billups won the award for his charity work in Detroit and his hometown of Denver.
Nuggets coach George Karl said he’ll miss Billups, a hometown favorite and consummate professional who helped Denver reach the Western Conference Finals in 2008-09, when the Nuggets nearly eliminated the eventual champion Lakers.
“I think Chauncey will go down as one of the greatest winners,” Karl said. “His record of seven or eight conference finals is, I mean, that’s incredible. I think that’s who he is, that’s what he stands for. He brought one of them to us. Last year we had a miserable ending. I think there’s many people, including myself, that will be sad for Chauncey. I know he loves Denver and we love him, but things happen. There’s decisions that have to be made.
“All trades for coaches are sad, there’s happy and sad. I’m glad it’s over, I’m glad it’s an opportunity to reinvent,” Karl continued. “I think everybody handled it as classy as you can handle it. There’s some sadness to it, there always will be. In the same, it’s time to move on, reinvent.”
What is for sure is that Billups is a true rarity, a hometown hero, someone who should never have been traded, and in my opinion his loss will cost the Nuggets a playoff spot this year and hamper the growth of the team for years to come.
For a sports fan who likes to see players doing the right thing, it does not get much better than Chauncey Billups. No matter where Billups ends up, I am sure it will not change who or what he is on or off the court. It is just a shame Carmelo Anthony had to drive a hometown hero, a legend and a guaranteed Hall of Famer away from where he wants to be.