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Chuancey Billups, “Deliver Us from Evil!”

The New York Knicks will retain veteran point guard Chauncey Billups for the upcoming 2011-2012 season.

Billups makes up part of Madison Square Garden’s own version of the trendy basketball “Big Three” with star forwards Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. For a short stint since the Boston Celitcs ousted the Knicks from the playoffs, Billups also made up part of another Knicks big three. A big three question marks that involved Donnie Walsh’s contract extension,  Mike D’Antoni’s job security/ long term status with the organization and whether the Knicks would pick up and extend or buy out Billups contract by April 29, 2011.

Well Billups is no longer part of the Knicks three question marks and his retention by the Knicks may help answer other questions raised about the Knicks long term trajectory and now “big two” question marks.

There were arguably several persuasive reasons not to keep Billups.  Amongst them have been Billups age and fit with the current Knicks. Billups’ age isn’t a disadvantage in and of itself.  But it can be and was when you consider how much more injury prone Billups appeared to be since joining the Knicks. Billups injuries were longer lasting and he was slower to recover from his bumps and bruises at this stage in his career. Billups age doesn’t really effect his style of play but BIllups slower tempo half court style of play has been questioned with regards to how it can fit the fast paced system employed by Mike D’Antoni. Billups has also not proved to be effective at the Pick and Roll (another D’Antoni mainstay). Billups also did not appear to be as effective a shooter late in games when compared to his exploits in Detroit and Denver.

Billups sizeable 14.2 million salary for the upcoming season was another reason for pause, especially when considering that players from the 2011 free agent class could address several Knicks roster needs. The 2011 free agent class offers centers and forwards like DeAndre Jordan (RFA) Kris Humphries (UFA), Tyson Chandler (UFA), Marc Gasol (UFA), Samuel Dalembert (UFA), Nene Hilario (ETO), Greg Oden (RFA), Kenyon Martin (UFA), Joel Przybilla (UFA and Kwame Brown (UFA), Hamady Ndiaye (RFA). Free agent point guards include Aaron Brooks (RFA), Goran Dragic (RFA), Jose Juan Barea (UFA), Rodney Stuckey (RFA) and Sebastian Telfair (UFA).

So why did the Knicks pick up Billups option?

 

Well much like head coach, Mike D’Antoni, Billups didn’t have a full season to work with the horses at his disposal. Injury limited Billups on court time with the Knicks star duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Soutdemire. In addition to cutting into Billups reps and opportunity to pick up the team’s offense, injuries likely also played a role in limiting Billups on court effectiveness. Billups importance to the team became evident in the playoffs when he went down with a knee sprain that left the point guard position undermanned by the combination of Toney Douglas and Anthony Carter.

Billups also may not be working in the same offensive system next year if head coach Mike D’Antoni is not retained, so questions about his fit are still to be determined and may be made moot by the beginning of next season. It is also possible that Billups staying on with the Knicks could signal a shift towards a more traditional style of play and may point to an eventual break with current head coach Mike D’Antoni. 

Also if the Knicks select a point guard (like Jimmer Fredette) in the upcoming 2011 draft, Billups track record of mentoring young guards may be additionally  valuable. Billups leadership and wisdom when packaged with his overall skills and intangibles make him an ideal point guard to manage the talents of the star duo at his disposal in Gotham. A fact that is all too clear to Billups. Billups championship experiences on the court and off the court (via his interactions with the coaches and executives that forged the 2004 Pistons Championship and the revamped US Olympic Teams)  have given Billups a sobering  perspective on the gulf that must be breached to return the Knicks to contention. A perspective towards the big picture often lost in the media lens of a famous arena and team that is often more Madison Avenue than Madison Square.

Perhaps, most importantly, holding on the Billups prevents the Knicks from moving in too fast on the upcoming 2011 free agent crop. Sure the the Knicks may be able to replenish their cupboard by signing solid free agents to fill need in tandem with the draft (including the organization’s ability to purchase picks). But the better and less problematic class of free agents awaits in the horizon of the summer of 2012. 

With the point guard position providing marquee talent like Chris Paul (UFA), Deron Williams (UFA) and quality in D.J. Augustin (RFA), Ramon Sessions (PO), Raymond Felton (UFA), Mo williams (PO), Jameer Nelson (PO) Beno Udrih (PO), Jerryd Bayless (RFA) Kirck Hinrich (UFA). The league’s premier center Dwight Howard (ETO), will also be available through free agency in the summer of 2012. Also available may be other quality players at the Center and Forward positions such as Jason Maxiel (PO), Roy Hibbert (RFA), Chris Kaman (UFA), Andrew Bynum (TO), Kevin Love (RFA), Brandon Bass (PO), Robin Lopez (RFA) and Javale McGee (RFA). Restricted Free Agents who were not extend long term in the summer of 2011 should also be available in the 2012 free agent market.

With the prices on available free agent talent set to be determined by the outcome of the next CBA, retaining Billups services (and contract) is a sound business decision. Especially when that decision becomes preventative against inadvertently or all too hastily biting on stupid pill contracts until the rules of the next labor market are set and clear. Thus, Billups contract can transition the Knicks into a free agent class that consist of stars like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Derron Williams and or consulation prizes whose price tags will involve less guess work on the labor front and more structuring on the managerial side of the equation.

So Chauncey Billups, in a way will deliver the Knicks from Evil! Or at least from “guesstimations” into the 2011 CBA/Free Agent abyss, and maybe even from the overhyped myths of the Knicks imminent resurrection and them dreaded stupid pills.

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