Chauncey Billups has been amnestyâ€™d and heâ€™s thrilled:
â€œI just donâ€™t deserve the treatment that Iâ€™ve continually gotten,â€ Billups said. â€œHistorically, these things never happen to the supposed great players and good guys. They continually happen to me, and it gets old. Listen, I feel Iâ€™ve been blessed in the game, and Iâ€™ve been given back, but these things start to wear on you. But thereâ€™s not another guy in history who keeps dealing with this, getting thrown into these things to make the money right. I really believe itâ€™s because people take my kindness and professionalism for weakness. They think Iâ€™ll be OK with this. I wonâ€™t be OK with this. Iâ€™ve saved my money. I may just retire if I donâ€™t get my freedom here.
Youâ€™ll remember, as of eight months ago, Billups thought he was going to finish his career at home. After bouncing around from team to team and having to leave the group heâ€™d won a championship with in Detroit, he was comfortable in Denver. He was going to play a few more years there, then join the organization in another capacity. He was loved. So, he wasnâ€™t fond of the idea of having to move to New York in the Melo deal:
“Oh it was hard, hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Billups said quietly, once the mad scene at the Garden had settled. “I had to tell my girls that daddy was traded, that he was leaving to play across the country. I told them it wasn’t my choice, that nothing could be done about it. I had to go. It wasn’t a happy scene.”
By the end of last season, Billups was still living in a hotel near the teamâ€™s practice facility, but had warmed up to life as a Knick. He said he wanted to return, but also that he â€œwouldnâ€™t take it personallyâ€ if the team bought out the last year of his contract for $3.7 million. Turned out that the club wanted him to stay, deciding a couple of days later to pay his full $14.2 million salary. When his name started appearing in Chris Paul trade rumors recently, he didnâ€™t love it:
â€œI want to win another championship,â€ he said. â€œI think we got some good pieces in New York. I felt like we were making that move to be possibly one of those top teams. I donâ€™t want to play for no team thatâ€™s rebuilding.
Billups is not going to get another shot with these Knicks, but he still wants to start and to contend for a title. He knows the amnesty waiver wire process allows any team to claim him, so heâ€™s trying to exert some control over the situation by threatening to be a problem or retire. And you know what? Iâ€™m not mad at him. I feel bad for Chauncey, being cast aside yet again. Thereâ€™s definitely logic in the Knicks forming a fearsome frontline, but if I was him Iâ€™d be wondering what exactly they were planning to do about the point guard situation. Iâ€™d be wishing they had just bought me out months ago and avoided this whole thing. If I was 35 and still had his talent, I wouldnâ€™t want to spend a season coming off the bench or acting as a mentor on a losing team. Iâ€™d want to sign with a good team and beat the one that let me go.
As soon as I saw those quotes to Adrian Wojnarowski, I thought of Allen Iverson. Kind of ironic that itâ€™s Chauncey now whoâ€™s saying he doesnâ€™t want to come off the bench, right? After the Billups-AI swap three years ago, I loved the way it raised Chaunceyâ€™s profile. What I hated, though, was that the compliments for Chaunceyâ€™s game often came packaged with criticism directed at Iverson, often in poor taste. At the time I wanted to scream that they were in different situations. I didnâ€™t think it was fair to blame Iverson entirely for Detroitâ€™s locker room being a mess, and I didnâ€™t think Billups would have taken kindly to being asked to come off the bench, either. At the very least, the latter part appears to be true.
Billupsâ€™s well-earned reputation will likely save him from being cast as selfish and unprofessional here, and thatâ€™s fine with me. If it feels like itâ€™s coldly manipulating the system to get what he wants (a starting role on the Heat, maybe?), well, thatâ€™s exactly what the Knicks did to him.