When the powers that be mapped out the 2008-09 NBA schedule, few fans really looked intensively at Friday night’s game between the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks as a highlight. But then again, few could have imagined Chauncey Billups would have been traded to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
Billups will make his homecoming on Friday night after playing at George Washington High School in Denver and then playing college ball at Colorado. Billups was then the third pick overall by the Boston Celtics before playing with the Toronto Raptors, the Nuggets, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Detroit Pistons.
It was with the Pistons that Billups finally made a name for himself, winning the 2004 NBA Finals MVP crown in helping Detroit to the NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now Billups returns to his native Denver and will be extremely motivated in helping George Karl bring a title to the Nuggets fans, even calling it a “dream”. Those are the kinds of words a coach likes to hear.
Here are a few statements from Billups’s introductory press conference: “It’s a dream for me to be coming back home in a time of my career where I’ve really established who I’ve always wanted to be. I look forward to trying to lead the charge and do the best I can, and trying to one day bring a championship to this town. Everybody knows that I have a lot of pride with Denver, and being able to now have that ‘Denver’ across my chest just makes me feel good; I’m happy about that, very happy about that.”
And this will undoubtedly be a good move. Billups is a selfless team-player and that is needed on any team with Carmelo Anthony, who will now have more shots with Allen Iverson gone. But Billups also provides the veteran leadership the Nuggets lack in the extremely tough NBA Western Conference.
Denver still will face a tough battle to reach the playoffs, but having Billups on board will help Karl in his efforts.
Here Karl’s statement: “I think from a coaching standpoint, since we made the A.I. trade and the experiment, we have lacked an orchestrator of the team, a leader of the team, a guy that makes good decisions for the team. I remember the two years that I was [not coaching], I was in Detroit hanging out when they won the championship with Larry Brown. Chauncey and I talked then and it was incredible. I don’t know what the word is, but his ‘dignity’ to the game; the respect that he has to every game he plays. From a coaching standpoint, we have a leader, an orchestrator, we have a guy that can defend, a guy that can help us space the court. We also have a lot of young players that need that guidance and need that direction. Our next step has been to win in the playoffs and anybody who has been in the Eastern Conference championships six years in a row, knows how to win in the playoffs.”
My bet would be that Denver makes the playoffs …
Okay, let’s head to the Predictions.
Well, two real top notch games and I think I will make my official pick as the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide heading down to “Death Valley” and beating No. 16 LSU. Just think that Nick Saban’s defense will be tough enough against the Tigers in the SEC.
The other top showdown will be a Big 12 tussle with No. 9 Oklahoma State heading to No. 2 Texas Tech. The game promises to be another high scoring affair. And I think the Red Raiders get the nod only because of being at home.
So, onto the German soccer Bundesliga:
Defending champions Bayern Munich head north to rivals Schalke in a battle of teams just waiting for surprise leaders Hoffenheim to falter. Schalke’s backline have allowed just three goals in their last six games – including two UEFA Cup games. And Bayern have scored 13 goals in their last five matches, starting with their 3-0 Champions League win at home against Fiorentina.
The question will be if Bayern can break through. But Munich is dealing with some injury issues as Willy Sagnol, Philipp Lahm and Hamit Altintop are expected out while Luca Toni and Bastian Schweinsteiger are both battling minor injuries. My pick is a 1-1 draw.
And once again, let’s finish with NFL football
The slumping Indianapolis Colts have fallen all the way to 4-4 and are four games behind undefeated Tennessee in the AFC South. And Peyton Manning brings his Colts to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, who are 6-2 atop the AFC North.
Indianapolis squeaked out an 18-15 victory last week at home over New England but ran for just 47 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh held Washington to just 60 yards in a comfortable win and the Steelers will beat the Colts at home.