Pistons Break Up Their Successful Foursome, Dealing Billups, McDyess to Acquire Iverson

Chauncey Billups, left, and Antonio McDyess have been key cogs in making the Pistons one of the Eastern Conference's most successful franchises.
Chauncey Billups, left, and Antonio McDyess have been key cogs in making the Pistons one of the Eastern Conference's most successful franchises. (By Noah Graham -- Nbae/getty Images)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When the Detroit Pistons finished last season runners-up in the Eastern Conference for the third consecutive year, Joe Dumars, the team's president of basketball operations, promised "significant change" and bluntly stated that "there are no sacred cows" on his team.

Replacing Coach Flip Saunders with Michael Curry and signing Kwame Brown in the offseason didn't qualify as a major shakeup, so yesterday Dumars acquired former league most valuable player Allen Iverson from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb.

The trade allows the Pistons to rent for one season an eight-time all-star and one of the best scorers in NBA history, while providing the Nuggets with a much-needed, all-star point guard to pair with star Carmelo Anthony.

Iverson, who spent the first 10½ seasons of his career playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, is involved in his second blockbuster deal in less than two years. The trade is the boldest move Dumars has made since he landed Rasheed Wallace at the trade deadline in 2004, months before the Pistons won the championship.

"We are pleased to welcome Allen Iverson to the Pistons organization," Dumars said in a statement released by the team. "Allen has proven he is one of the elite players in the league and we like what he adds to our roster at the guard position. We appreciate everything that Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb brought to the organization during their time here in Detroit and we certainly wish them all the best."

Dumars broke up one of the league's most successful foursomes -- Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince -- and signaled a change in philosophy for the Pistons, who made two NBA Finals appearances and six consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference finals without the benefit of a superstar.

Iverson, 33, has the highest scoring average of any active player at 27.7 points per game, but he is at the tail end of his career. He also will become a free agent next summer after playing out the final year of a contract that pays him $20.8 million. With Wallace's $13.7 million contract also coming off the books next summer, the Pistons will have ample salary cap space to sign a free agent in either 2009 or 2010 -- when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can become free agents.

"If the trade hits the way you want, it means you hit the Finals. If it doesn't hit the way you want, that means you have a tremendous amount of flexibility, with [promising second-year point guard] Rodney Stuckey," said an NBA front-office executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak on behalf of the Pistons.

Dumars has tried to get Iverson before. He nearly acquired him in the summer of 2000, but Matt Geiger refused to waive a trade kicker, and that nixed the deal. The near-deal sparked the best season of Iverson's career, when he won the 2000-01 MVP award and led the 76ers to the finals.

The Iverson-Anthony experiment provided a lot of scoring but proved to be a failure with the Nuggets exiting in the first round the past two postseasons. "Even though we probably didn't achieve what we wanted to achieve with him, we were a better team because we brought him here," Nuggets Coach George Karl told reporters in Denver. "It's a trade you look at, hoping both teams made the right decision."

Billups, 32, spent the past six seasons in Detroit, advancing to the conference finals each season. He played previously in Denver, where he appeared in 58 games in two seasons from 1998 to 2000. In 12 seasons, he has career averages of 14.8 points and 5.5 assists and has made three all-star appearances. Billups has three seasons left on a four-year, $46-million contract. He is a native of Denver who played college basketball at Colorado.

"We're excited for Chauncey to be able to go home, and contribute to Denver's resurgence in the Western Conference. We hope that it will work out as well for him, bringing his basketball career full circle," Billups's agent, Andy Miller, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Miller also represents McDyess, a 13-year veteran who spent his first two seasons in Denver but is seeking a buyout. "Our intention is to move on and we hope we reach that conclusion in Denver, here shortly," Miller said.

If McDyess is bought out and decides to return to Detroit, league rules require him to wait 30 days to re-sign with the team that traded him.

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