- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Allen Iverson-Chauncey Billups trade has the sense of being nothing more stirring than rearranging the decks in Denver and Detroit - and nothing against what each player once was.

The age of the principals is the point, Iverson at 33 being one year older than Billups and each in career descent.

Billups has the capacity to provide an upgrade more than Iverson because of how he fits with the Nuggets. He is the quintessential point guard who thinks pass first and spreads the defense with his 3-point shooting. He should open the floor for Carmelo Anthony and allow J.R. Smith to be the shooting guard he is at his core.

Billups is the floor leader the Nuggets have been lacking. His defense-minded attitude cannot but help a team that treats that end of the floor with stunning indifference. The downside with Billups is his recent habit of coming down with tired legs in the postseason. That dynamic contributed to the Pistons being eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals the last three springs.

It was Billups’ fate to play for two coaches, first Larry Brown and then Flip Saunders, who broke out in hives whenever they looked at the bodies on the bench. Each coach wore out the starters in the regular season, and it was no coincidence that Tayshaun Prince, the youngest of the starters, would end up being the team’s most consistent postseason performer.

The Nuggets also received the added bonus of Antonio McDyess, a reliable role player who can sink open jumpers and defend in the post.

Yet this move does not fundamentally change the pecking order in the Western Conference. The Lakers, Hornets, Jazz and Spurs are not about to be overtaken by a Billups-led Nuggets. And it is doubtful the Nuggets can pull alongside the Rockets, so long as Ron Artest maintains his equilibrium.

Perhaps Iverson’s most appealing quality to Joe Dumars is his fat contract that comes off the books after the season. Dumars also could permit Rasheed Wallace to take a hike, which would allow him to be a big player in free agency.

If you recall, Dumars had no qualms about letting Ben Wallace skip town after judging correctly that his seasons as a high-quality defender were behind him.

Iverson does give the Pistons a dimension they have lacked during their ensemble-cast seasons: a player who can create a shot on a moment’s notice. When all else fails - as a set play often does in the waning minutes of a playoff game - Iverson is still equipped with enough quickness to get a shot.

That positive is possibly offset by his high-volume shot haul, which changes the essence of who the Pistons have been. They defied the NBA’s conventional wisdom of a superstar-driven team. They upset the Lakers with that approach in the 2004 NBA Finals and extended the Spurs to seven games the next June.

Yet Dumars recognized that the team, as put together, had exhausted its shelf life as a genuine contender.

“You lose that sacred-cow status when you lose three straight years,” he said in the offseason.

It probably is premature to judge Dumars on the trade because it could be the follow-up move that reveals his true intentions. That is assuming either the Celtics or Cavaliers claim the Eastern Conference championship this season and the Pistons are left with the consolation prize yet again.

As it is, both teams have energized their fan base, which is no small consideration. The Nuggets were not going anywhere with Iverson, and the same could be said of the Pistons with Billups.

Both teams now have the illusion, if only momentarily, of having made a step up in class. If both teams are found wanting in the playoffs - and that is usually the outcome of deals involving players on the wrong side of 30 - at least Dumars will have the latitude to be creative.

Until then, the trade, however glittery with name power, is an unexceptional draw.

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