Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups, playing on his sixth team after being drafted third overall in 1997, was named the NBA Finals' most valuable player after averaging 21 points and 5.2 assists.

"It's unbelievable," Billups said. "I dreamed of this all my life and the way my career had gone, it seemed like my chances were kind of drifting away. I never gave up on what I felt I could do and what I felt I could do was win a championship."

Billups became the first player to be named Finals MVP before being named to an NBA all-star team since Pistons guard Joe Dumars, now the team's president of basketball operations, went through the same scenario in 1989. Billups also was the first point guard to win MVP in the finals since the Pistons' Isiah Thomas earned the honors in 1990.

"You can point to a lot of different individuals and feel pretty confident that it would be a good choice," said Pistons Coach Larry Brown, making his seventh NBA coaching stop. "When you look, Chauncey's career is a lot like mine. I think I might have been in a couple more places than him, but he's been through a lot. A lot of people told him he couldn't do certain things. This is a shining moment for him."

Celtics May Pursue Thomas

The Boston Celtics will pursue Washington Wizards restricted free agent center Etan Thomas when the free agency period begins July 1, according to a league official who asked not to be identified.

Thomas is the Celtics' top free agent target and, according to the source, they are willing to offer him a salary starting at $5.1 million, the league-allotted mid-level exception.

Washington has the right to match any offer for Thomas since he is a restricted free agent, however, it might not be willing to pay the 6-foot-9 inside presence as much as the mid-level exception, based on conversations with team and league officials earlier this season.

If Washington were to lose Thomas, it likely would prompt the Wizards to pursue a free agent big man with the $6.6 million it will have under the salary cap, a total combining the mid-level and the $1.5 million exception awarded to teams every other season.

The Celtics' pursuit of Thomas comes as they are looking to fortify their front court, which could take a huge loss with the possible departure of free agent center Mark Blount. Thomas, who had the best season of his four-year career last season, mainly because he was healthy for the first time, backed up starter Brendan Haywood, but was frequently used in the fourth quarters of games because of his rebounding and shot-blocking prowess. He played 79 games, averaging 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. . . .

Though Pistons officials were trying to stay cautiously optimistic, they said an abundance of champagne was packed on ice in a private room at The Palace.

"We have made preparations," team spokesman Matt Dobek said. "You can't assume you're going to lose." . . .

A parade (or other form of public celebration) will be held Thursday in Detroit, Dobek said.

"I never gave up on what I felt I could do," said Detroit's Chauncey Billups, here getting the NBA Finals MVP trophy from Commissioner David Stern.