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Pistons president Joe Dumars is willing to pony up a four-year contract worth around $13 million a season. Keeping Billups is a must because finding a quality point guard is difficult.

What the Pistons must do in addition to re-signing Billups is find a quick change-of-pace guard that can back him up and be groomed to be his replacement.

Wallace to the Knicks

What has a better chance of happening? Rasheed Wallace going to the New York Knicks or Knicks coach Isiah Thomas coming to the Pistons to replace Flip Saunders after this season?

Put your money on 'Sheed going to the Knicks, although that's not a sure thing. Thomas likes Wallace's veteran experience and his talent. And Wallace would love to play in New York before retiring.

I cannot see Thomas returning to the Pistons as long as Bill Davidson is the owner and Tom Wilson has a role at The Palace. It might sound nice, but it would quickly turn into disaster. There is way too much bad blood between the parties for it to happen, even though Dumars and Thomas have a great relationship.

No conspiracy

And one request. Please stop with the e-mails about the Pistons getting ripped off by the referees during the Eastern Conference finals. You people should know better. The Pistons didn't play well. Their defense was porous and you can question if they believed in coach Flip Saunders .

The amazing thing about this town is, people are reluctant to criticize players. When they lose, it's always a conspiracy. Here's the conspiracy. The Pistons didn't play well enough to win this series and that was even evident in games they won.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070611/SPORTS08/706110357/1126/SPORTS0101

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Billups, Pistons divorce unlikely

By Marc J. Spears

Denver Post NBA Beat Reporter

Article Last Updated: 06/10/2007 12:11:40 AM MDT

The only thing that could get Chauncey Billups' mind off his Detroit Pistons being eliminated from the NBA playoffs was spending quality time with his three young daughters. So that's what the Denver native did a week ago after Detroit was eliminated by Cleveland.

Eventually the Billups girls got bored and went back to their regular routine without daddy. And once that happened, reality set in for the former George Washington High School and Colorado star. There will be no return to the Finals this season, and it's possible he could have played his last game as a Piston.

"For the third year in a row we played like a different team in the end," said Billups, in a phone interview. "It hurts. Only one team goes home happy every year. But it hurts because it could be us."

It's going to hurt the Pistons more if Billups doesn't return.

The 2004 Finals MVP plans to opt out of his contract paying $6.8 million next season to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. With all due respect to Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, there is no better free agent on the market than this two-time all-star. And after missing out on a big contract previously, this is likely the last long-term lucrative contract that Billups, 30, is going to land.

Booth Newspapers reported last week the Pistons are expected to offer their point guard a four-year contract starting at about $13 million per season. Joe Dumars, Pistons president of basketball operations, strongly stated to The Denver Post via e-mail last week that he has no plans of losing Billups.

"Chauncey is our No. 1 priority this offseason and we have every intention of re-signing him," Dumars said.

Ben Wallace was expected to return to Detroit, too, but the heart and soul of the Pistons signed a four-year, $60 million deal with Chicago instead last summer.

"It shows you anything is possible," Billups said. "I thought he'd be a Piston for the rest of his career."

But word is Detroit is 10 times more worried about losing Billups than they were Wallace. Plus, the Pistons were awful without Billups last season.

"Chauncey has been everything we expected him to be, and he represents everything we stand for as an organization," Dumars said.

While Billups will do his due diligence in the free-agent market, the only teams with salary cap space are Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Milwaukee and possibly Orlando and Chicago. There is also a perception that "Mr. Big Shot" will never leave Detroit.

Teams over the salary cap would need to work a major and tough sign-and-trade deal to land Billups. But don't expect Detroit to listen to such offers and don't be surprised if they draft a point guard, like Eastern Washington's Billups- like Rodney Stuckey, to take the load off Billups' weary legs.

"It's a business, and I'm going to go through everything," said Billups, who averaged 17.0 points, 7.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds this season. "I worked hard to be in this position. I owe it to myself to at least listen."

Pistons fans shouldn't be upset when their beloved point guard tests the market, as he should. It's a business. But since both sides love and need each other and the money is available, it's hard to imagine a divorce in Detroit this time.

"Right now I can't see myself leaving," Billups said.

Said Dumars: "W

we expect Chauncey to retire as a Detroit Piston."

http://www.denverpost.com/nuggets/ci_6104308

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Signs point to change for Pistons

Chris McCosky / The Detroit News

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Making a trade for Suns forward Shawn Marion is one of the more plausible options the Pistons have in the offseason. See full image

Key decisions

CHAUNCEY BILLUPS

He wants to stay. But as free agency looms, can a deal get done?

RASHEED WALLACE

If the Pistons make a substantial trade, the enigmatic forward likely would be included.

CHRIS WEBBER

He helped the Pistons in the regular season, but the aging center might be retiring.

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* NO UNTOUCHABLES: Joe Dumars has tough decisions to make with Pistons

CHAUNCEY BILLUPS: He wants to stay. But as free agency looms, can a deal get done? See full image

CHRIS WEBBER: He helped the Pistons in the regular season, but the aging center might be retiring. See full image

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AUBURN HILLS -- Who says history doesn't repeat?

For the second time in two decades, a marvelous five-year run of Pistons basketball excellence served only as a launching pad for another NBA superstar.

The Bad Boys' two NBA championships and three conference titles in a five-year run from 1987 to 1991 were mere footnotes to the ascension of Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

This current five-year run -- one NBA title, two conference titles -- undoubtedly will be reduced to mere stepping stones in the journeys of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

That's how things work in the NBA. Stars drive the bus. Even as commissioner David Stern was praising the Pistons for bringing teamwork back in 2004, he was making alterations to the game that would further empower star players.

Teams don't sell, star players do. That is the business axiom this league has built its foundation on. So when Stern saw the Pistons and Spurs choking stars with their grimy defenses, he outlawed a lot of the techniques and tactics -- basically any physical contact on and off the ball in the open court -- these defenses were built on.

The Pistons' concept of five-beats-one worked, for a while. It worked in 2004 and '05, and for a while in '06. But that was before Wade and James hit their stride. Once they did, the Pistons seemed powerless to stop them.

James' dominance in the final four games of the Eastern Conference finals will force Pistons president Joe Dumars to at least consider breaking up the core of this Pistons team. Minor tweaking might not be a sufficient response to the rising challenges of Cleveland, Chicago, Miami and others in the East.

"You always have to look to improve, even when you win a championship," free-agent-to-be Chauncey Billups said after the Game 6 loss Saturday. "You can still try to improve in some areas. Do I know what improvements to make? Nah. I'm just here, man, trying to make the best of the situation We'll see how it turns out. I love these guys. And hopefully, we'll see what happens, and we can keep going."

Keeping Mr. Big Shot

Re-signing Billups remains Dumars' top priority this summer. Losing to the Cavaliers, even with Billups' admittedly sub-par performance, won't change that. Billups said all the right things -- he wanted to re-sign, he loved it here and wanted to retire as a Piston. But he also said the NBA is a cold business at times and what he wants might not be what he gets.

"All I know is, I love the guys I play with," he said. "We've had some great, great years, and I think if we can keep it all together, we still can have some more great years. Nobody is too old. We still got a good group. But that's not really up to me."

It's hard to envision Dumars breaking up his all-star backcourt -- Billups and Richard Hamilton -- or moving Tayshaun Prince.

The overhaul, if there is to be one, will come in the front court. Chris Webber, pondering retirement, will most likely not be re-signed. Dale Davis is also expected to retire. Nazr Mohammed, even though he has four years and some $25 million left on his contract, might be traded.

That leaves Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess (who could get an extension this summer), Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson (a restricted free agent) in what is now a pretty bare frontcourt depth chart.

The Pistons have no salary cap space available, but can pursue free agents with their mid-level exception (which is expected to start at more than $6 million this summer) and a bi-annual exception worth $1.83 million. They also have two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick that would carry some value.

That is what Dumars is working with going into the summer -- with James' performance in the conference finals running on a loop inside his head.

James deconstructed the Pistons with his talent, his size and strength, and the force with which he played. He controlled the games and demanded the Pistons alter their style of play at both ends of the floor.

They either had to devote all their defensive energies to stopping him or live with whatever he produced and try to stop his teammates.

The Pistons tried both and got burned by both. James scored 48 points and hit 29 of the Cavaliers' last 30 points in Game 5. The Pistons vowed he wouldn't beat them in Game 6. They trapped and double-teamed and tilted their defense to stop him. And a wide-open Daniel Gibson scored 31.

The same thing happened in 2006 when they tilted their defense to stop Wade. Jason Williams hit all the back-breaking 3-pointers in that series.

And when the Pistons' defense isn't getting stops, the offense has to grind out long possessions against set defenses for nearly the full 48 minutes. It's exhausting and it eventually erodes efficiency. That's why the Pistons shot 33 percent in their season-ending loss in Miami last year, and 36 percent on Saturday in Cleveland.

That is the power of one -- a power the Pistons do not possess. The power Dumars might now be tempted to procure as he redesigns the team for another run.

Wanted: Superstars

The problem is this: There is not an abundance of superstar players that are either available or affordable to the Pistons. The Pistons would have to somehow trade for one, and to trade for one would lead to breaking up the core group of this team.

You want Kevin Garnett? He has two years and $46 million left on his contract. Are you willing to give up both Wallace and Hamilton for him? Even if you were, it's doubtful the Timberwolves would do that deal.

You want to pick up the $61 million owed to Portland's Zach Randolph and roll the dice on his off-court issues? And who do you think the Trail Blazers would want in return? You know they aren't taking Wallace back. So you start with Hamilton and Billups -- your starting all-star backcourt.

How about Jermaine O'Neal (three years left at $20 million per), Paul Pierce (owed $76 million through 2011), Kobe Bryant ($20-plus million through 2011) or Vince Carter (free agent)? Would you really break up the core of this team for any of those players?

It is doubtful Dumars would.

What is perhaps more plausible would be taking a run a Phoenix's Shawn Marion. Marion, who would give the Pistons' front court the quickness and athleticism it lacks, has two years and $33.5 million left.

The Pistons would have to offer Wallace and another player (Johnson?) to pique the Suns' interest.

All of that is speculation at this point, obviously. But it seems the Pistons are back to where this all started in 2002. In the absence of one true superstar player, you have to have a roster full of really good players who play well together.

The Pistons did not play really well together down the stretch of the last two seasons. There were signs of aging. There were signs of internal splintering. There were signs all over the place that the five-year run, as fabulous as it was, had come to a disappointing and unfulfilling end.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070604/SPORTS0102/706040359/1127

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If we were Joe D

June 4, 2007

Mitch Albom

1. Replace at least one member of the starting five -- and bring in someone young.

2. Lose the attitude.

3. If the starters remain in their 30s, vastly improve the bench.

Michael Rosenberg

1. Re-sign Chauncey Billups. If the Pistons don't resign Billups they are essentially admitting they can't contend next year. I don't think they are ready to do that.

2. Trade quantity for quality. With Nazr Mohammed, Carlos Delfino and two first-round draft picks, the Pistons have the pieces to exchange for somebody who can make a real impact.

3. Sign Grant Hill. He would essentially fit the Lindsey Hunter role, except that he is a much better offensive player than Hunter and provides versatility becasue of his size.

Drew Sharp

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1. Re-sign Chauncey Billups, but only at a price that's well south of the maximum annual rate. Without Billups, the Pistons are barely a playoff team next season.

2. Offer Rip Hamilton in a trade package with Portland to acquire 25-year-old power forward Zach Randolph. Randolph, who played one season at Michigan State, would provide the easier scoring opportunities that the Pistons still so desperately desire.

3. Select an immediate rotation guy in the draft. Somebody like Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey, who fearlessly attacks the basket.

Krista Jahnke

1. Re-sign Chauncey Billups. One bad series does not undo all the things Billups has done well for five seasons.

2. Draft well at No. 15. The Pistons need to get younger. There's no better way than the draft, and that mid-first round pick can't be a project in this well-stocked crop of prospects.

3. Improve inside. The biggest goal of the summer, after attending to Billups, should be becoming more athletic in the interior.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070604/SPORTS03/70604001/1051

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McDyess, Murray want to stay Pistons

Both said they likely won't opt out of their contracts; Davis says he's not ready for retirement.

Joanne C. Gerstner / The Detroit News

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AUBURN HILLS -- This wasn't how the Pistons wanted to spend Monday at The Palace.

They wanted to be playing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers.

Instead, they were dodging rain showers and reporters while carrying boxes to their cars. The team gathered informally to clean out lockers and say farewell for the summer.

Glimpses of the future were offered: Both forward Antonio McDyess and guard Flip Murray said they're not likely to opt out of their contracts for free agency, and center Dale Davis said he isn't thinking about retirement.

"I haven't even thought about opting out, not like seriously," said McDyess, who has one remaining year, worth $6.7 million, on his contract. "Where would I go? What team, that I would fit in on, can you point to and say, 'They're the ones who are going to win the ring?' I don't know. I have no idea. Plus, I like playing here, I like these guys. I can't think of somewhere else where I'd rather play right now, so why opt out?"

Murray, who has a $1.89 million option, didn't work out as well as hoped this season.

"I definitely want to be back here," Murray said.

Davis' declaration was the most surprising, given that he's 38 and has played 16 seasons. It was expected he would retire to concentrate on his numerous entertainment projects.

"I more than likely will be definitely playing," Davis said. "I still feel like I can help and contribute to this game, and help a team. I'm still short of a goal of winning a championship, as well. I look to be back in action."

Davis will be a free agent.

Don't ask me

McDyess said the Pistons need a change -- at least in attitude.

"Now it's like when we try to fight back, from being down in a series, we can't do it anymore," McDyess said. "We're still a good team -- we just need to focus. Whether we need someone, more help, or we just need to get back to where we need to be to put ourselves to win a championship.

"You can (bring back the same team), but you can't bring back the same mentality -- it ain't going to work."

Rasheed Wallace didn't offer an opinion.

"We haven't the slightest idea," Wallace said. "If you are going to ask me what moves we're going to make, and who's coming back and all that -- I am in the fog with y'all."

Still hurting

McDyess clearly was troubled by the finality of the season.

"I'm embarrassed to show my face because I felt we had a best chance to get to where we wanted to be this year," McDyess said. "It didn't come up that way.

"My career is at the end, and thought this was the time, and I felt if it didn't happen this year, it's not going to happen. We came up both years short. At the same point, same way, last year."

Slam dunks

Richard Hamilton and Chris Webber did not show up Monday to collect their things.

Point guard Chauncey Billups signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Adidas.

Wallace, at one point, popped in front of Billups and announced he would be Billups' agent in upcoming contract negotiations with the Pistons. Billups laughed, made more amusing because his agent, Andy Miller , stood about 10 feet away.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070605/SPORTS0102/706050328/1127

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The blame game begins again for Pistons

Monday, June 04, 2007

By A. Sherrod Blakely

AUBURN HILLS -- Once again, the Detroit Pistons' season ended sooner than they expected.

And once again, speculation about who to blame will be a topic of discussion in what may be a busier-than-expected summer for the team.

Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations, has maintained that re-signing point guard Chauncey Billups to a new contract will be the team's top priority. After that, he's mentioned his desire to re-sign Detroit native Chris Webber, who will be a free agent, and 20-year-old Amir Johnson, a seldom-used forward with considerable promise.

I'd like to take care of our business in-house," Dumars said recently. "And add two or three more pieces, and those being our two first-round (draft) picks and maybe another piece in free agency."

If Dumars listened to the public scrutiny levied against the Pistons since they were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday night, you'd think he would be in the market for a new head coach as well.

Flip Saunders has been the favorite target of fans after the Pistons were beaten, 4-2, by Cleveland in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

"He's in a tough situation," Billups said of Saunders. "They did the same thing to him last year. He's the coach, but you know, could he have done some things differently? Yeah, probably so. But could Sheed (Rasheed Wallace), Tay (Tayshaun Prince)? Yeah, you can go down the line (on the team). You can't point the finger at one person."

While there were some players early Sunday morning after Game 6 who endorsed Saunders' return next season, Wallace remained neutral on the subject.

"I don't really know," Wallace said when asked if he expected Saunders to be back. "That's not up to me. It's up to management. Either way, we as players, we still have to go out there and play."

http://www.mlive.com/pistons/stories/index.ssf?/base/sports-2/118092840477620.xml&coll=1

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Judging by the last article it seems sheed is not happy to see Saunders back. I also hope Dumars wasn't serious about his desire to resign Webber. I think Hill would be a good addition. The pistons need a Big man who can score around the basket and clog the interior when James and Wade go to the hoop.

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A big man with balls.

I know hind sight is 20/20 but Dale Davis should have been used much more vs the Cavs.

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Dumars bound to think big

Joe Dumars says he is not going to make a trade just because a bunch of media people say he should. How rude. I mean, after all we've done for him.

But I think Dumars wants to make a trade. I think he almost needs to make a trade. I think deep down, in places he doesn't talk about at dinner parties, he sees what most Pistons fans seem to see: The Pistons, as presently constituted for next year, almost certainly will be very good, but not great. They need to get better if they want to make the Finals, even out of the nonscholarship Eastern Conference.

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Dumars won't say any of this, of course. He has gone out of his way not to say it. He has said "my picture is not as bleak as some" and that he would be OK bringing back his entire starting lineup because hey, think of the money the Pistons would save on that video they show during pregame intros.

Dumars is not dumb. He knows that if the whole league thinks he is determined to make a trade, it weakens his position.

When Dumars is asked about trading two or three starters for one, he says the Lakers didn't get that for Shaquille O'Neal and the 76ers didn't get that for Allen Iverson. Well, everybody knew L.A. and Philly had to trade those guys -- that's why they got 60 cents on the dollar. Dumars won't paint himself into that corner.

So he says he will only make a trade if the right one presents itself. I'm sure that's true, but Dumars will be more aggressive in pursuing the right deal than he was in any of the last three years. And because Dumars has shown both the guts and the brains to pull off trades, I think it's at least 50-50 that he makes a big deal this summer.

So far, Dumars has made only one move: trading Carlos Delfino to Toronto for two second-round picks. So on paper, at least, the Pistons are worse than they were two weeks ago, which tells me Dumars traded Delfino to set up his next move. It would help if I had any clue what that next move is. I don't.

I do know that under the salary cap, the Pistons can trade Rasheed Wallace and Nazr Mohammed for Shawn Marion. They can trade Wallace straight up for Andrei Kirilenko. They can trade Wallace and Rip Hamilton for Kobe Bryant.

I don't know why Dumars hasn't traded Rasheed yet -- I just dealt him three times in one paragraph. Where is my Executive of the Year award?

There is, of course, almost no chance of those deals happening. I only know they can work thanks to ESPN.com's trade machine, which tells you if a deal works under the salary cap. This is preferable to the old system for proposing trades, where you would try to figure out if a deal worked under the cap by looking at salaries and studying the cap rules and realizing, uh ... well, there was no old system for proposing trades.

(By the way, in my attempt to make the most ridiculous possible trade, I tried to move LeBron James to the Pistons. No luck. Every trade got rejected. This might be because the machine has some common sense, but I think it has something to do with a James' "poison pill provision," a contract addendum that should be used by people dating each other.)

Dumars seems to have calmed the waters -- he held that low-key press conference last week, laughed at some of the proposals and said his team would be fine. He said that if Flip Saunders and Rasheed Wallace don't get along, he would deal with it (and since you can't just "deal with it" by unloading an $11-million-a-year player for equal value, I think Saunders had better reach a truce with Rasheed ASAP.)

And Dumars said he won't make a trade just so he could hold a press conference and say, "Hey, look -- we've changed!"

Of course nobody asked for that. We just said his team needs to improve to have a realistic title chance. I think Dumars knows that, too. In the next month, we'll find out if he can pull it off.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070619/COL22/706190388/1051/SPORTS03

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Detroit has been on a remarkable run -- five straight appearances in the conference finals -- and Dumars already has a game plan to keep it going. First order of business: re-sign Chauncey Billups. Next up, re-sign Amir Johnson. Huh? Who?

That would be the second-year, second-rounder who played a grand total of 124 minutes this past season.

And 39 minutes the year before that. But Johnson is an active 6-foot-10-inch guy and had some decent games in the Development League.

Dumars expects him to be a contributor next season.

"There is no way we are going to allow that kid to get away from us," Dumars told ESPN's Chad Ford in a podcast. "We want him here for years to come. He has a tremendous upside."

The Pistons selected Johnson right out of Westchester High School in Los Angeles with the 56th pick in 2005. (He had committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville.)

He averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 17 games for the Fayetteville Patriots in 2005-06. (That's the same team the Celtics' Gerald Green played for in the D-League.)

Johnson went for 20 points and 10 rebounds when the quasi-Pistons beat the crypto-Celtics in the final game of last season at TD Banknorth Garden.

Look for the Pistons to work Johnson and Jason Maxiell, their No. 1 pick in 2005, into the rotation next season, even more so if Rasheed Wallace is traded.

Detroit also has two picks in the first round of this draft, the 15th (from Orlando) and the 27th.

http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2007/06/24/this_might_jazz_them_up/?page=3

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I don't know why Dumars hasn't traded Rasheed yet -- I just dealt him three times in one paragraph.

hilarious

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On Rasheed, I agree with Dumars...he was the only guy who played with any kind of consistent hunger during the playoffs. If the Pistons send Rasheed packing who exactly is going to take his place?

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Having watched Stuckey here the last 2 years I can assure anyone he is for real. Can score on anyone. The local sports talk guys here are all over him going to the Pistons in the draft.

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I doubt it, Stuckey is falling down, he was hot a couple of weeks ago, but dropping now. I'm thinking the Pistons are going to take BPA, someone like Thaddeus Young/Nick Young/Al Thornton/Julian Wright. Someone unexpected is going to fall, and the Pistons will grab him up. Personally I'd like to get Thaddeus Young, but he will probably be gone, his value is rising fast.

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I doubt it, Stuckey is falling down, he was hot a couple of weeks ago, but dropping now. I'm thinking the Pistons are going to take BPA, someone like Thaddeus Young/Nick Young/Al Thornton/Julian Wright. Someone unexpected is going to fall, and the Pistons will grab him up. Personally I'd like to get Thaddeus Young, but he will probably be gone, his value is rising fast.

Thaddeus' value has been steadily going down from what I have noticed. I don't think the Pistons want a lanky SF, I think they would definitely be interested in Nick Young (scorer) Thorton (powerful, good rebounder, scorer) but i don't see them or Julian Wright falling to 15. I think they'll take either Stuckey, Crittenton or Law.

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Thaddeus Young has the most upside of anybody in the draft, sans Oden/Durant. His freshman season hurt him, but Crittenton was part of his problem as well. The guy is a high bball IQ, athletic freak, I think the Pistons will grab him if he's available. His 4.0 GPA doesn't hurt either.

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Thaddeus Young has the most upside of anybody in the draft, sans Oden/Durant. His freshman season hurt him, but Crittenton was part of his problem as well. The guy is a high bball IQ, athletic freak, I think the Pistons will grab him if he's available. His 4.0 GPA doesn't hurt either.

Honest question. What are you basing this on? Did you watch him a lot in college? I'm just wondering because while I've read the dude has upside I hadn't heard him spoken of in such glowing terms. I'll have to do a little more research on him.

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i want al thornton more than anyone, but i havent seen a mock where he falls past 12-13, he will almost for sure be gone when we pick

i wouldnt mind javaris crittenton at pg, he is special and could be a fallback just in case chauncey goes somewhere

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Pistons, Billups off to slow start

July 2, 2007

BY KRISTA JAHNKE

FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

As other NBA free agents such as Vince Carter and Jason Kapono came to quick agreements, the courtship of point guard Chauncey Billups got off to a slower start when the negotiation period began Sunday.

By Sunday evening, despite a lack of other suitors, the Pistons weren't close to finalizing a deal with their star point guard, who is an unrestricted free agent.

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According to ESPN.com, the Milwaukee Bucks, the only team with enough salary cap space that expressed interest in signing a point guard, made no early move to talk with Billups. Instead, the Bucks chose to focus on re-signing their own point guard, Maurice Williams.

The Journal Times (Racine, Wis.) also reported the Bucks had offered Williams a deal worth about $40 million for five years. The same paper reported that the Pistons' initial offer for Billups stood at four years, $52 million, an average of $13 million per season.

But a person with knowledge of the negotiations wouldn't confirm that report, saying the numbers are fluctuating and the sides haven't settled on a four- or five-year contract.

The Toronto Raptors fell out of the running for free-agent small forward Grant Hill after they signed Kapono, the Miami Heat's swingman. That leaves the Pistons, who have a full mid-level exception of nearly $6 million to work with, and the Phoenix Suns, who can offer only the veteran's minimum of $1.2 million.

Still, nothing will happen until Billups first agrees to return, as Hill will undoubtedly look elsewhere if the Pistons lose their former NBA Finals MVP.

Pistons president Joe Dumars, Billups, and his agent Andy Miller did not return calls or e-mail requests for comment.

Teams can't officially sign free agents until July 11.

Contact KRISTA JAHNKE at 313-223-4493 or kjahnke@freepress.com Check out her Pistons blog at www.freep.com/sports.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070702/SPORTS03/707020352/1051

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Pistons begin negotiations with Billups

Monday, July 02, 2007

By A. Sherrod Blakely

AUBURN HILLS -- As expected, the Detroit Pistons opened the NBA free agency period on Sunday with a strong focus on re-signing Chauncey Billups.

A league source confirmed that the Pistons began contract discussions with Billups' agent, Andy Miller. It is unclear how the talks went, though the source confirmed no agreement had been reached.

Billups has indicated on several occasions that he wants to return to Detroit. The only obstacle that appears to be in the way is money.

Billups is seeking a salary that will reflect his status among the NBA's top point guards. The Pistons want to reward him for that.

However, because the Pistons want to avoid paying a luxury tax and because there are fewer teams in the running for Billups following draft-day moves last week by Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte, he may receive an initial contract offer less than what he expected.

Miller, who was unavailable for comment on Sunday, recently acknowledged the delicate balance that exists in determining the right situation and the right price for Billups.

"It's my job as his agent to ensure that, in addition to being in a situation that he feels most comfortable with, that he also gets fair market value for being the top free agent out there," Miller said. "Chauncey's focus and my focus will be to get a deal done with Detroit. If that doesn't work out, then we'll have to explore the other options available to us."

While Pistons officials have been quiet about a salary for Billups, it's believed he will be offered a four- or five-year deal that would start between $11 and $13 million per season. With 10.5 percent annual raises, the contract's value could be worth more than $78 million.

Last week, Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations, reiterated that he was confident the 6-foot-3 All-Star would be re-signed.

"From his side, he's made it clear this is where he wants to be," Dumars said. "And I've made it clear, `OK, this is where you want to be, we'll get it done.' Between Andy Miller and I, we'll get it done."

The Pistons may have a tougher time trying to re-sign Amir Johnson.

The 6-9 forward has played sparingly in his first two seasons, but that hasn't stopped teams from aggressively pursuing him.

Johnson's agent, Bill Duffy, said Sunday morning that six teams had already contacted him to express interest in signing the restricted free agent. The Pistons will have seven days to match any offer Johnson receives. However, re-signing Billups will push Detroit's salary total close to the league's luxury tax threshold. That might deter the Pistons from matching another team's offer for Johnson.

In addition to their own free agents, the Pistons have their sights set on adding a free-agent small forward. Although ex-Piston Grant Hill has been their top target, they might look closer at Toronto's Mo Peterson. The 6-7 guard/forward, who played at Michigan State, is unlikely to return to the Raptors after they traded for ex-Piston Carlos Delfino. Toronto has also reportedly agreed to a four-year, $24 million contract with Miami's Jason Kapono. Another option the Pistons might consider is New Orleans guard/forward Desmond Mason.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sherrodb@aol.com, or on his weblog at http://blog.mlive.com/pistonsinsider/

http://motownsports.com/forums/showthread.php?t=49639

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Another way to spend the Rockets' money

Now that the free agency period has begun, there is a way to spend the Rockets' money and go back to Thursday night's draft at the same time.

Let's say the Rockets could have a player worthy of a top 10 pick, likely between four and eight. Let us further say he would be a power forward, with terrific lift, long arms. Imagine a kid with the build of a young Robert Horry.

But since we're not technically going back to the draft, it would not matter that the Rockets did not have a pick so high in the draft and do not plan to. It does not even matter than the draft is over.

The catch is that the player would be a bit of a project, unlikely to contribute much to a strong team until sometime along the way in the season after next. And as a project, he would be a gamble, though with potential to pay off big time.

All the Rockets would need is a willingness to offer the sort of pile of money that goes to players taken in the top third of the first round to a player entirely unproven, and the usual chunk of luck.

Oh, it would also mean spending most of the mid-level exception allowance on a kid project.

Would you do it?

The Pistons took Amir Johnson late in the second round of the 2005 draft. He has spent most of his time since tearing up the NBA Development League. By February's trade deadline, he had a buzz going as the first untouchable player in the history of the D-League.

Johnson is a restricted free agent now and the Pistons have said they would match whatever he is offered. But they have more pressing free agent issues, starting with locking up Chauncey Billups.

If the Rockets offered a contract that starts at $3 million, maybe $3.5 million, could a team with Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell at the position match as an investment?

The Rockets would still have to add one veteran pro at the position, likely through a trade. But that's the plan anyway. Johnson, still just two years out of high school, is still a project. And as a project, he is a gamble.

But if the Rockets cannot land someone they would want to take their mid-level, this could be a worthwhile investment. If they were awarded a high first round pick, and Johnson was the best available, they would give that kind of cash to a young, talented project happily.

The Pistons might match. But unless the Rockets find a better, more sure-thing way to spend their allowance, it might be worth calling their bluff.

http://www.prosportsdaily.com/nba/pistons/rumors.html

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Other teams' draft-day moves take them out of battle for Billups

Sunday, July 01, 2007

By A. Sherrod Blakely

AUBURN HILLS - The Detroit Pistons have felt good about their chances of re-signing free agent Chauncey Billups for quite some time.

After a series of draft-day moves made by potential competitors for Billups, his return to Detroit seems even more likely.

"Some teams, what they did (on Thursday), that changed things," said Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations.

And those changes might impact how much the Pistons offer Billups during the free agency period which began today.

Billups' agent Andy Miller has repeatedly said that his client's first choice is to re-sign with the Pistons.

"But it's my job as his agent to ensure that, in addition to being in a situation that he feels most comfortable with, that he also gets fair market value for being the top free agent out there," Miller said. "Chauncey's focus and my focus will be to get a deal done with Detroit. If that doesn't work out, then we'll have to explore the other options available to us."

However, at least two possible suitors (Memphis and Charlotte) made draft-day moves that would indicate pursuing Billups is not their priority. The Grizzlies drafted point guard Mike Conley Jr. with the No. 4 pick, which comes a year after they drafted point guard Kyle Lowry in the first round. It's doubtful that Billups would want to be part of a team that's rebuilding, especially after they drafted players at his position each of the last two seasons. And the Bobcats, whose payroll has been among the NBA's lowest for years, traded the No. 8 pick (Brandon Wright of North Carolina) to Golden State for former Michigan State guard Jason Richardson whose contract has four years and about $51 million remaining. Charlotte will likely focus on re-signing its own highly-regarded free agent (small forward Gerald Wallace), which combined with the addition of Richardson, would probably take Charlotte out of the hunt for Billups.

Orlando and Milwaukee are in the mix as well, although the Magic appear to be more focused on pursuing Seattle free agent Rashard Lewis and re-signing ex-Piston Darko Milicic. The Bucks appear unlikely to want to spend the kind of money it would take to entice Billups (his new deal is expected to be worth more than the five-year, $65 million deal signed by Steve Nash two years ago), especially with Michael Redd and Bobby Simmons owed a combined $94.96 million over the next four seasons. Adding Billups would assure them of exceeding the luxury tax threshold, something Milwaukee owner Sen. Herbert Kohl wants to avoid.

In the end, Detroit could find itself bidding against itself to retain the two-time All-star.

"I'm not worried about competing against myself," Dumars said. "That's not what you worry about. You worry about somebody swooping in with something, out of the blue. There's a commitment here. We need to go forward with Chauncey as our point guard. So having made that commitment, we'll get it done."

After Billups, Detroit's next priority will be to re-sign Amir Johnson, a 6-foot-9 (and growing) forward who is arguably Detroit's most athletically gifted player. Dumars anticipates he'll play more minutes this season.

"For people who haven't seen him play, they'll continue to wonder why he's such a priority for us," Dumars said. "Once they see him play (regularly), they'll understand why."

Detroit's also in the market for a free agent small forward. The Pistons are one of several playoff teams (Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio and Toronto) believed to have their sights set on ex-Piston Grant Hill. Detroit also hasn't ruled out re-signing Chris Webber, but Dumars isn't sure whether the 34-year-old Webber will retire.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sherrodb@aol.com, or his weblog at http://blog.mlive.com/pistonsinsider/

http://www.mlive.com/pistons/stories/index.ssf?/base/sports-2/1179180602318720.xml&coll=1

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