Chauncey Billups thought for sure that Mike Woodson would get the Detroit Pistons job. When it didn't happen, he then heard from the former Atlanta Hawks coach, who was an assistant coach on Billups' Pistons team that won the NBA title in 2004. Woodson asked Billups about the Knicks, who were searching for a defensive assistant.
Lawrence Frank was supposed to be the guy, but, in somewhat of an upset (all indications were that Joe Dumars favored Woodson), he ended up getting the job in Detroit. That left Woodson to consider the few options left and New York was certainly on the radar.
"I was happy he was even considering it the first time we talked," Billups said.
A short time later, Woodson called Billups again and told him he was going to take the job.
"When he told me he was coming," Billups said, "I was pumped, man."
But, in the midst of a lockout and the resulting no-contact rule the NBA has strictly enforced, that also meant one other thing: "Of course now I can't talk to him."
But he doesn't need to. You don't win a championship ring with someone and not know what they're all about. Billups said Woodson is "going to add so much to our team" and, yes, though the specific role will be downplayed, most of it will be at the defensive end.
"He had a lot of responsibility to our defense in Detroit and what we did," Billups said of Pistons teams that were annually one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. "A lot of film work we did with him, a lot of on the court drills and going through different situations, Woody led the charge with a lot of those things."
Woodson's philosophy, Billups said, was based on a simple attitude: "We're going to make people work to score. Help side is always going to be available and we're going to make them take the shot they don't want to take."
Billups suggested things will be better for the Knicks, who were routinely criticized for their defense, now that Mike D'Antoni has someone who can handle that responsibility and allow him to focus on what he does best: offense.
"More than anything, [D'Antoni] is a great coach, I've said that many times," Billups said. "Mike is an offensive guru, I think he's one of the best in the business. I think Woody coming in is just going to add to his staff because he's going to be able to continue to worry about how the offense is running and know he has a guy on the staff who is really in tune with what's going on at the other end of the floor."
But will D'Antoni, who doesn't subscribe to the Pat Riley School of three hour practices, give ample time for Woodson to work on the defense in practice?
"I don't think that will be an issue at all because one thing I know about Mike," Billups said of D'Antoni, "he wants to win."
Billups and I spoke for a little less than an hour on Thursday. He talked very candidly about the looming possibility of losing a chunk of his career-high $14.1 million salary this season if the lockout leads to missed games. You can read that story in Friday's Newsday.
Some other topics from the conversation that didn't involve money (or which NBA player will be this year's Shawn Kemp once the lockout ends):
* - He is currently at home in suburban Denver with his family and is set to leave Sunday for Las Vegas where he will spend the week at trainer Joe Abunassar's Impact Gym and participate in the organized scrimmages that are ongoing.
Knicks first round pick Iman Shumpert has caught everyone's attention in the games so far and Billups is looking forward to seeing the rookie -- and possible backcourt mate -- firsthand.
* - The left knee, which he injured in Game 1 of the series with the Celtics, is fully healed. Billups has been working out full court for two weeks. If camp was to open on time "I'd be ready," he said. But the fact that it took so long to heal was a concern. "If you remember, I thought I'd be able to come back and play in that series, man," he said. "Something I thought would take four days took four months."
* - Though he is ready if camp opened on Oct. 3, he didn't sound too excited about leaving home to spend two weeks with fellow Knicks at the minicamp Amar'e has arranged in late October at the IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla. if the lockout is still going on. This will be a bit of a controversial issue, especially since this team is still relatively new with each other and needs all the extra time together as possible to develop chemistry and be ready to hit the ground running if/when the lockout ends.
"It depends on what I got going on with my family at the time," said Billups, who took the trade to New York hard because it meant leaving his wife and daughters back in Denver and living alone in a Manhattan hotel for the final two months of the season. "I'm using this time when I'm around, I don't want to miss no soccer games, no dance recitals. I have the luxury of being home and being around that, I'm going to take advantage of it."