MINNEAPOLIS -- A few months ago, just after being swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, Timberwolves guard Chauncey Billups told a group of reporters that he hoped to stay in Minnesota.
"I want to be here," he said. "I've finally got to a place where I feel comfortable. I just hope my situation doesn't change."
Fast forward to this week, when Wolves executive Kevin McHale said: "I think Chauncey feels pretty comfortable with Detroit."
Billups signed his deal with the Pistons on Wednesday, the first day NBA teams could begin signing free agents. What changed?
"I wanted to look at some different teams. It all came down to opportunity," Billups said Wednesday.
While Billups may not acquire the best reputation for jumping from team to team (Detroit marks his sixth team in six years), he was dead on about the whole opportunity thing.
The Pistons gain a guard who's coming off a breakout season in which he averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 assists and 28.7 minutes. Billups gains a guaranteed starting job for a team that is better positioned to win an NBA title than the Wolves.
Why can't the Wolves provide that opportunity? They can't afford to.
It's well documented now how much room in the $40.3 million-per-team salary cap is gobbled u p by Kevin Garnett's six-year $126 million contract.
The Wolves can't afford to bring in the role player they need to help take them past the first round of the playoffs, where they've stalled out the last six years. And, as Billups demonstrated, they can't even afford to retain good players.
The blame is with the Wolves organization: Glen Taylor, McHale, Saunders, and everyone who makes a habit of making bad decisions. The problem created by Garnett's contract may not have been so bad had they been more careful about who they threw more money to (Joe Smith, Marc Jackson, Felipe Lopez, Will Avery, etc.)
Now, the Wolves probably can't afford to meet Wally Szczerbiak's demand for the maximum salary. The irony here is that Szczerbiak might actually be worth the money. Scenarios like these are known to send players looking for other teams.
By the looks of it, they're about to pick up another player who won't be able to give the team the lift they need.
The Wolves are showing strong interest in former Minneapolis North standout and ex-Chicago Bulls guard Khalid El-Amin. Let me say that again, Khalid El-Amin, a guy who was told by the Chicago Bulls -- the all-mighty Chicago Bulls who have four straight losing seasons -- that they preferred him to play somewhere else.
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