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Chauncey: No hate for Pitino, Celtics

NBA DRAFT The Boston Celtics took Billups with

NBA DRAFT
The Boston Celtics took Billups with the No. 3 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. Billups was taken one selection after the 76ers took Keith Van Horn, and one pick before the Grizzles drafted Antonio Daniels. Billups is only one of three guys in that draft to make an All-Star team; Tim Duncan (No. 1 to San Antonio) and Tracy McGrady (No. 9 to Toronto) being the other two. Surrounding Billups are then Celtics coach Rick Pitino, No. 5 Ron Mercer (taken sixth overall by Boston), and No. 8 Antoine Walker (taken sixth overall by Boston the previous draft).
Photo Credit: AP

 Chauncey Billups used to wear the green, but he never really was a Celtic. He was Boston's first pick, third overall, in the 1997 draft.

Billups knows he wasn't what Rick Pitino really wanted. Pitino left Kentucky to take over the Celtics in 1997 with the idea that, after finishing with the NBA's worst record (15-67), Boston would be in line to win the first overall pick, which that year was Tim Duncan. Instead, the Spurs won the draft lottery and the Celtics fell to third.

Fifty-two games into his rookie season, Pitino traded Billups to the Raptors for Kenny Anderson. "Everybody kind of thought I hated Rick and Rick hated me," he said, "but that wasn't the case."

Billups says Pitino told him "that there was a lot of pressure on him to win and he needed to get a veteran point guard to try to help him do that. He basically didn't have time to let me learn from my mistakes."

The deal stunned Billups.

"The third pick in the draft, you feel like you're going to be there for nine, 10 or 11 years or maybe your whole career, like Paul [Pierce] has," Billups said.

It would take a few more seasons, and four more stops in between, before Billups finally was able to develop some roots in Detroit and emerge as one of the top point guards in the NBA.

Billups admitted there as some initial animosity in the first few years after the trade, but considering the Celtics remained mediocre through middle 2000s while he was leading the Detroit Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference Finals, a pair of NBA Finals and the 2004 NBA title, such bad feelings fade quickly.

"Nobody's really there anymore, so there's no extra incentive," he said, "other than my desire to win, period. That's it."

* * *

* - Amar'e Stoudemire declared his sprained left ankle, which caused him to miss three of the last four games of the regular season, is "100 percent, no worries." He also said his tank is not only full, it's on "overload."  When I asked him if his body is at the level it was in late November to December, over a stretch when he was arguably one of the most dominant players in the NBA, Stoudemire replied, "I feel the exact same."

But he did admit in March, the tank was half-empty.

"That month was tough," he said of the 18 game schedule in 30 days.

* - Chauncey Billups wore a compression sleeve on his left knee during practice and revealed that he reaggravated the knee during the game against the Bulls on Tuesday. When he ran into Dwight Howard on March 1 and suffered a deep thigh bruise, Billups also felt pain in his knee. But he quickly downplayed it as a concern. "I'm good man, I'm good," he said. "Ain't no issues there."

* - Each of the Big Three spoke after practice, but Amar'e seemed to be in the mood to make the loudest proclamations.

"The main goal is to get to the Finals," he said. "That's the main goal."

He also said the motivation is to keep everyone focused and understanding that "we've got a great shot at doing something special."

 

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