Memphis, Tenn. — Former Piston Tayshaun Prince was as surprised as anyone when former teammate Chauncey Billups reunited with the Pistons during free agency this summer.
Prince, now with the Grizzlies by way of a midseason trade last January, counts Billups among his closest friends.
The two were teammates from 2002-08, before Billups was traded to the Nuggets in the beginning of the 2008-09 season. Billups was a source of encouragement for Prince when Prince was a rookie who didn’t get to play much under then-coach Rick Carlisle.
Prince believed the enticement of playing for a title with the L.A. Clippers would’ve been too much to resist for Billups, considering the guard is entering the twilight of his career.
Billups, however, chose to come back to Detroit, believing he still had more to give on the floor as opposed to his role where he didn’t get a chance to do much aside from standstill shooting playing next to Chris Paul.
“I was shocked, I was surprised. I thought that one, he’d entertain going back to the Clippers,” Prince said. “With the talent they had and what they could achieve, I thought that would be the first option. Definitely shocked to be back in Detroit.”
Prince said he didn’t have any inside information before Billups made his choice. Although the two train together in Las Vegas during the summers, the topic of Billups’ free agency — or more specifically, returning to Detroit, didn’t come up.
“Didn’t get a chance to talk to him, It was a tough dilemma whether to go back to the Clippers,” Prince said. “I didn’t talk to him about it at all but once he made his decision we did talk about it. I was playing the waiting game.”
That said, he likes the position the Pistons are in now, with the Pistons using the money vacated by Jose Calderon’s contract expiring — the player who Prince was traded for — to sign Josh Smith in free agency.
He approves of new coach Maurice Cheeks and said it wouldn’t feel awkward playing against them this time around. Last season, he made his return to The Palace two weeks after being traded and admitted it was difficult.
He believes Billups will be a key acquisition for now and down the line.
“With the position he’s in, he can help the young guys and get the team going back in the right direction,” Prince said.
Billups scored five points in the Pistons’ 111-108 overtime loss to the Grizzlies Friday night. Prince scored eight.