The last three days have been quite hectic in New York. We've concerned ourselves with everything from what number Carmelo Anthony would potentially wear (It was No. 7, by the way), to the ingredients comprising the Carnegie Deli sandwich named in his honor to the details of the newly-announced VH1 reality TV show starring he and his wife, La La Vasquez. It's safe to say, MeloMania has arrived.
But somewhere through all of the Melodrama (yes, that's officially the last time I'll use that pun), there's a part to this whole deal that's not all glamor and glitz. In order just to bring Anthony to the Knicks, three different NBA teams had to deal a total of 13 players, including the All-Star forward himself.
While every NBA player understands what he's signing up for when he dots that first contract, you have to imagine that it's a difficult task to be expected to move to a brand new city one morning and suit up for a brand new team that night. That was exactly what was expected of five-time All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups. Out of the 13 total players dealt, he may have it the hardest.
While not many NBA players may call Denver home (we certainly know Melo didn't), Billups undoubtedly did. He's a Denver guy, born and raised, and played his high school basketball at George Washington High School. Where does a top nationally-recruited prospect from Denver go to play his college ball? Billups chose the local University of Colorado, a school that hadn't won an NCAA Tournament game in over 30 years till 1997—when Billups helped them do just that.
He was drafted third overall in the 1997 NBA Draft, and over the next 11 years played for a total of four different teams, including a brief stint with his hometown Denver Nuggets. In 2004 as a member of the Detroit Pistons, Billups was named NBA Finals MVP as his Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers and became NBA Champions. Then in 2008, Billups was once again sent to Denver, then at the age of 32, and figured he'd be able to end his career right where it began.
As the Carmelo Anthony rumor mill exploded, Billups' name came up quite often, and it seemed as if a trade for Anthony would only be able to work along with Billups' contract. Chauncey made it public that he'd love above all to stay in Denver and finish out his career alongside his family and friends. But this is a business, and sometimes things don't always work out the way they're planned. Billups became a New York Knick late Monday night.
Although Billups was traded away against his will from what he thought to be the perfect situation, solely in order to fit the bill of another man's idea of a perfect situation, Billups made the trip to Gotham City in time for Wednesday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, and was formerly introduced to the New York media by Knicks' brass prior to the game. He tried his hardest to put on the best rendition of a smile that he could, and took his first photographs in orange and blue.
Instead of coming out flat, Billups then lit up the Bucks for 21 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. In his best effort, he commanded a Knicks offense which currently has no identity, and almost succeeded at disguising them as a group that was comfortable with one another.
He's faced many doubters in the media since Monday's deal, especially given the fact that Raymond Felton, the man he's replacing, had become a fan favorite by mid-season. Regardless, Billups shined in his Knicks debut, and might just prove to be just as important of an asset as Anthony is down the stretch.
But Chauncey Billups' professionalism didn't end there. After letting basketball do his talking, Billups came back out to the podium after the game and proclaimed how happy he was to be a Knick with the straightest of faces. Not once would a Knick fan ignorant to his career history guess that Billups just left his ideal playing situation.
Billups has true class and the mark of a champion. New York will realize what a special player they have running the point in the weeks to come.
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