Iverson on the move again

November 3, 2008 7:07:11 PM PST
The Detroit Pistons worked the phones last summer, trying to trade for a superstar to shake up their roster. They ended up standing pat because a deal didn't make sense.

Two games into the season, Allen Iverson was the answer to their hopes in a blockbuster that generated rare buzz for the NBA in November.

Detroit acquired the former NBA MVP on Monday for All-Star point guard and former finals MVP Chauncey Billups, top reserve Antonio McDyess and project Cheikh Samb.

"We just felt it was the right time to change our team," Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars told The Associated Press. "Iverson gives us a dimension that we haven't had here and we really think it's going to help us."

The Pistons have reached six straight Eastern Conference finals - the longest such streak since the Los Angeles Lakers' dominant run in the 1980s - and won the 2004 title without a player expected to be in the Hall of Fame.

Dumars said the Nuggets first contacted him Thursday with a proposal that included Iverson. Dumars, who had become concerned the Pistons were set in their ways, struck a deal at 1:45 Monday morning.

"It gives us a different way to attack people," Dumars said.

"We have been extremely successful for a long time. But I also think what comes with that is a little bit of predictability."

Iverson may not be around for long - making $20.8 million in the final season of his contract - but The Answer might be what Detroit needs to return to the NBA finals fr for the third time.

The Pistons kept McDyess off the free-agent market last summer by giving him a $13.5 million, two-year extension, and they would love to have him back if the cost-cutting Nuggets buy out his contract.

"I'll be talking with Antonio and his representative directly," Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien said. "But we think he's a heck of a player and know he's a quality guy. One step at a time."

Detroit, which tried to deal for the 33-year-old Iverson at least once before, added the superstar it lacked and salary-cap space for next summer by shedding Billups' contract.

"In this league, six or seven years is an eternity to have a core together," Dumars said. "So when a situation like this presents itself where you can cover yourself on both sides - the immediate impact player and the long-term flexibility, you have to push the button."

Billups is in the second season of a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $46 million with a $14 million team option for a fifth year.

"My family and I are excited to be going back home," Billups said. "As a kid growing up in Denver, I always dreamed of winning a championship with the Nuggets. Hopefully we can make that dream a reality. I'll miss my teammates, the fans and everyone in the Pistons organization who I grew close to over the last six years.

We had a great run."

Iverson will take a spectacular resume into free agency in the summer.

The 20th-leading scorer in NBA history was the league MVP in 2001 - four years after being the Rookie of the Year - and is a nine-time All-Star.

Philadelphia drafted him No. 1 overall in 1996 out of Georgetown and he spent 11½ seasons with the franchise. He was traded Dec. 19, 2006, to the Nuggets and helped them reach the playoffs twice.

"I want to thank A.I. Allen Iverson was a joy to coach," Karl said. "When we acquired him, there were all these nightmares and stories about how difficult he was, and he never was difficult for me."

Billups bounced around the league after Boston drafted him No. 3 overall in 1997. The 32-year-old found a home in Detroit and blossomed into a three-time All-Star, and two-time All-Defensive player. He was on rosters in Boston, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota in his first four seasons before leading the Pistons along with Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.

"Every time I look out and don't see Ben (Wallace) there I get a strange feeling," Brown said. "Now not to see Chauncey and Dice, it's going to be different.

"But Allen is really special. If they want excitement in that building they're going to get it because every time he steps on the court he's going to try to win the game. And I don't think you would ever consider giving up Chauncey and Dice unless you were getting something you thought was pretty special."

Billups struggled in each of the past three conference finals as the Pistons were eliminated in Game 6 each year. He has averaged nearly 15 points and 5½ assists for his career.

McDyess revived his career with the Pistons, playing 321 games over four seasons after serious knee operations. The former Olympian and All-Star has averaged 13.4 points and 7.7 rebounds for his career. Like Billups, the 34-year-old McDyess is one of the league's most popular players among peers.

Detroit acquired the 7-foot-1 Samb for Maurice Evans from the Lakers during the 2006 draft. The 24-year-old center played in just four NBA games last season, spending much of his year in the NBA Development League, where he led the league with four blocks a game.

"Two teams had one common problem, or challenge," Warkentien said. "I think the Pistons looked at (Rodney) Stuckey and saw him as the point guard of tomorrow, and you have an All-Star in Chauncey who was in his way.

"We're just thrilled with the way J.R. (Smith) is progressing and he had a Hall of Famer in front of him. You understand the motivation of both teams."