DETROIT — Chauncey Billups has become the face of the Detroit Pistons.
The All-Star point guard is hardly new to the team, but his status changed when Ben Wallace took his muscle and assorted hairdos to Chicago as a free agent last summer.
“I guess this kind of fell in my lap, and I’m comfortable with it,” Billups said. “I never chased being able to be ’the face’ or ’the man’ of a team because that’s not what I’m all about, but I’m not running from this role because it’s an honor. It’s not going to be tough because I’m just going to be me.”
On the court, that means being a smooth leader with the ability to make 3-pointers — especially in crucial situations — and to run Flip Saunders’ free-flowing offense.
Off it, Billups said it entails being levelheaded and available to answer questions — win or lose — in front of his corner locker.
“There’s no question, this is Chauncey’s team,” Saunders said. “He’s coming off his best year, and I look for him to be even better this season. I think he’s getting into the prime of his career. What’s really great is he’s told me this is the most excited he’s been since he’s been with the Pistons.”
Four years ago, Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars saw something special in Billups, a player who had bounced around the league. The former Colorado star was drafted third overall by Boston in 1997 and was with four teams — the Celtics, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota — in his first four seasons.
After two solid seasons with the Timberwolves, Detroit gave him a home. He signed a six-year, $35 million contract that gives him an option of becoming a free agent in July.
“I hate to think of how my career would’ve ended up if Joe wasn’t searching for a player like me,” Billups said. “Joe is not just my boss, he’s my confidant. He’s also my mentor on and off the court.”
Each of Billups’ coaches with the Pistons — Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown and Saunders — helped him evolve into one of the NBA’s best point guards.