I read a column earlier this week by Mark Kiszla, a longtime sports writer for the Denver Post, in which he claimed the answer to making Denver more relevant on the NBA’s national stage was to offer Chauncey Billups a spot in the Denver Nuggets‘ front office. The thought being that Billups would be able to “reshape and rebuild the image of Denver with players, coaches and executives throughout the league.”
For those of you who may not know, Billups grew up in Denver, and still has a home there. He is by far the most recognizable sports figure the city has ever been associated with.
While I see Kiszla’s point and agree with some of his assertions, I think he is slightly missing the mark. The NBA is the NBA, and quite frankly unless there is a massive overhaul in the way contracts are constructed, the players will continue to run the league. And as long as the players have all the power, they will continue to strong-arm their way into the nation’s largest markets.
Denver will continue to be a fly-over city no matter how much politicking and hobnobbing Billups could possibly do within the current player and executive ranks.
I do, however, like the idea of offering Billups a position in the Nuggets front office, but for different reasons altogether. If I remember correctly, Billups was perhaps the key figure on the last team to win a NBA championship without a single, identifiable superstar, the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
It seems to me that if anyone could figure out how to resurrect this model, dust it off and apply it to a Nuggets team with a similar makeup, it is Billups. I did say similar, not identical. Please don’t assume I am comparing the 2004 Pistons and the 2014 Nuggets. I recognize and appreciate the greatness of that Pistons team, and the Nuggets are clearly not on the same level.
That said, the Nuggets do have four players on the roster that could, within the realm of possibility, be All-Star caliber in Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Arron Afflalo. If you remember, the Pistons had four All-Stars on their championship team in Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace.
The Nuggets are clearly not as good defensively as that team, but they are probably close to being equal offensively. This core team has already proven, under George Karl, that they are good enough to secure a top seed in the West. They finished with the No. 2 seed in 2013 with largely the same group of players, and you can make the case that Afflalo is an upgrade over Andre Iguodala.
Is it so crazy to think that this Nuggets team could make a similar run? And who better to be in some sort of a consultant role than the 2004 NBA Finals MVP?
In my opinion, the Nuggets owe Billups for the way they mishandled his situation as a player on two different occasions. Giving him a front office position would be wise on many levels, not the least of which is demonstrating some appreciation for what he has meant to this city.
He may not be able to help lure big name free agents to Denver. That is a problem that can only be solved through systemic changes to the NBA as a whole. But what he can do is offer his vast experience and basketball acumen to the organization located in the city he loves. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.
Bring home the Prince of Park Hill.