DETROIT | 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.
“Trading Marilyn Monroe for Jane Russell. That’s not bad,” said Charlotte coach Larry Brown, who coached the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title and Iverson in Philadelphia. “Joe knows what he’s doing, and I’m happy Chauncey’s going back to Denver, and his family is there.”
A basketball official said Detroit has agreed to a three-year contract extension with Richard Hamilton. The official, who spoke the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced, said two years of the contract are guaranteed and the third is partially guaranteed.
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 for the first time since 2005.
The Pistons are hoping Iverson will play Wednesday at Toronto, and barring injury, his home debut will be Sunday night against the Boston Celtics.
Iverson talked about the possibility of being traded during training camp and said the only negative would be uprooting his family again.
“But it doesn’t bother me because basketball is basketball,” Iverson said during camp. “It won’t change my game because I only know one way to play, and that’s like every game is my last.”
Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose, said he is not negotiating a contract extension with the Pistons for his client, who said during training camp he was looking forward to being a free agent for the first time in his career.
The addition of Billups might placate Nuggets fans who have watched the once free-spending franchise trade defensive standout Marcus Camby to the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason and recently decline to extend Linas Kleiza’s contract.
Billups is a Denver native, former Colorado star and former Nuggets player.
“We fortunately fall into a guy that’s an All-Star caliber point guard,” Denver coach George Karl said after saying he was sad to see Iverson go. “The connection with Denver and Colorado is fun to be a part of and enthusiastic to our owners.”
McDyess also will be enjoying a homecoming of sorts, landing on the Nuggets’ roster for the third time.
The Pistons kept McDyess off the free agent market last summer by giving him a two-year, $13.5 million 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.
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.
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 11 1/2 seasons with the franchise, leading it to the finals in 2001. He was traded Dec. 19, 2006, to the Nuggets and helped them reach the playoffs twice.