Deeeeetrooooit Basektballlll! This was the Detroit Pistons era from 2003-2009 and they had one of the best backcourts of all time – Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton. With the NBA lockout shortening the season as well as the offseason/training camps, teams have been rushing to wine-and-dine free agents, create interesting trade scenarios, and determining other roster movements. Part of the “other” roster movements consists of waiving, releasing, buying out, and utilizing the amnesty clause on players. This is what happened to Billups and Hamilton during the first week of player transactions in the NBA.
The New York Knicks who traded for Billups along with Carmelo Anthony last season have reportedly utilized the amnesty clause on Billups who was scheduled to make $14 million this coming season. The Knicks made this move in order to bring on board Dallas’ Tyson Chandler, who has verbally agreed to terms with the Knicks, to improve the frontcourt defensively. Great move by the Knicks to bring Chandler in, but this leaves the Knicks backcourt vulnerable as well as out of the running for the Chris Paul sweepstakes from a cap standpoint.
Rip Hamilton has reportedly agreed to a buy-out with the Detroit Pistons. Hamilton was scheduled to make $12.5 million this season and 75% of that amount the following season. With a plethora of talented guards, which included Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, and now rookie Brandon Knight; the Pistons had to make a move and Hamilton was the odd man out. After 9 years with Detroit, it was time for a new era in Motown. Although the Pistons had the amnesty clause, they’ve reportedly decided to buy-out Hamilton’s contract, which is rumored to be far less than what he’s owed. This does not free up any salary cap for the Pistons though.
What’s next for Billups and Hamilton? Well, since Billups was waived under the amnesty clause, he doesn’t become a free agent. Teams who are under the salary cap can place a claim on Billups and whoever has the highest bid, Billups will have to join that team. Rumors are that if he has to go to an undesireable team, Billups plans to retire. Hamilton on the other hand, was bought out so once he clears waivers, he is free to join any team he desires. He would be a perfect fit for a veteran team competing for a championship…hint hint… the Chicago Bulls.
Being from Detroit, it’s sad to see the second best backcourt duo in Pistons franchise history wind down their careers they way it has. (That’s right. No duo will ever be greater than Isiah and Joe.) Billups, even at 35, has the ability to be a more than solid contributor to a championship team, and can still play at a high level. It doesn’t seem like he is getting the respect and recognition for what he has accomplished in this league. It’s his basketball IQ that allows him to still be one of the top 10-15 point guards today.
With Hamilton, he was part of a mess in Motown so it’s not all his fault. His run-ins with former coach John Kuester became a soap opera while his playing time and role had been reduced.
At one point last season, he had a string of DNP-CD’s for almost a month and half. He averaged a Pistons career low in points (14.1) and minutes (27.2) and was the talks of trade rumors the past two years. With his conditioning, Rip has the ability to play at least 5 more years and still be effective running off screens.
Billups and Hamilton were one helluva backcourt. Together they made 2 NBA Finals appearances with one championship. Billups was named the 2004 NBA Finals MVP and Hamilton is the Pistons all-time playoffs scoring leader. Both played in 6 straight Eastern Conference Finals together. (Billups – seven straight; one with Denver). Billups is a 5-time all-star and Hamilton is a 3-time all-star.
These guys weren’t the high-profile stars. They aren’t as marketable as a Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, or a Derrick Rose. But their games complimented each other so well that they were a tandem that had to be reckoned with, and they could dominate a game quietly. Three years after playing together both Billups and Hamilton were basically just let go by the their respective teams. Yes, it’s a business and that’s part of the NBA player life cycle but maybe I’m being a homer, but it’s a shame to see teams give up on still talented players the way they did. However, there’s no doubt Hamilton and Billups will be playing in an NBA city next year and hopefully competing for another ring. It just better not be in South Beach.