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Published: Sunday, 1/15/2006

Billups is playing like MVP

Chauncey Billups of the Pistons is registering career-high numbers, averaging 19.4 points and 8.5 assists per game.

It s official. Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons is this year s Steve Nash.

Remember Nash, the flashy point guard for the Phoenix Suns who won the NBA s most valuable player trophy a year ago after leading Phoenix to the best record in the regular season?

Move over, Mr. Nash. It s Billups turn to enter the debate whether a point guard deserves to be MVP.

Billups, who already has an NBA Finals MVP to his credit, is the best point guard to play for the Pistons since Isiah Thomas was in his prime.

Billups, 29, is having a season to remember, posting career highs in scoring (19.4 points), assists (8.5), 3-point shooting percentage (.432) and free-throw percentage (.922).

Entering last night s game against Charlotte, he was third in the league in assists, third in assist-to-turnover ratio, fourth in free-throw percentage, fifth in three-pointers made and ninth in three-point percentage. His 19 assists against Sacramento are an NBA-high this season.

And he s doing it for the Pistons, who have the league s best record and are just two years removed from winning an NBA title.

Chauncey has an unshakable confidence and belief in his abilities on the basketball court, said Detroit president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, who signed Billups as a free agent in the summer of 2002.

Said Billups: Joe gave me an opportunity, and I just seized it and took advantage of it.

Ironically, Dumars was the last NBA player to earn MVP finals honors before making the All-Star team. Dumars, who did it in 1989 against the Lakers, became a perennial All-Star.

Here s hoping that history repeats itself for Billups, a nine-year veteran. At the very least, he deserves to play in the All-Star game.

But wouldn t it be something if Billups made the All-Star team and also received serious MVP consideration?

What a tribute that would be for Billups, who bounced around early in his career and played for five teams in his first four seasons before making a home in Detroit.

Billups is working against long odds. He s not a name player like Nash, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd and Baron Davis, although Billups has a championship ring and the others don t.

In the NBA, point guards are rarely considered MVP material. Prior to Nash s MVP coronation, Iverson was the last point guard to win it in 2000-2001. Before Iverson, Bob Cousy of the 1956-57 Boston Celtics was the last true point guard to win the award.

All signs point to this being another big season for the Pistons, and a special season for Billups.

Since joining the Pistons, Billups Pistons have won 50-plus games each year, won two Central Division titles, one NBA championship and finished runner-up in the finals last season.

This season Billups has been the best player on the NBA s best team. His play at the point has stood out on the Pistons, who are renowned for hard work, tough defense, balanced scoring and unselfish play.

Billups is a tremendous basketball player. Playing for Flip Saunders, his third coach in four seasons in Detroit, he has elevated his game to an all-time high level.

In Detroit, MVP is spelled B-I-L-L-U-P-S.



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