Now, the team that traded him away wants him back.
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars confirmed Thursday morning that Billups and the team have agreed to terms on a contract.
Billups is getting a two-year deal, the first season guaranteed, for $2.5 million each year.
"I never wanted to leave here. Everyone knows that," he said on Jan. 26, 2011, after making a flurry of 3-pointers late in a game to help Denver win in Detroit. "I wanted to retire here."
He's back to help the Pistons as a pass-first point guard who can make 3-point shots. And he will be expected to mentor 21-year-old Brandon Knight and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, in the backcourt and off the court.
Detroit dealt Billups to Denver on Nov. 3, 2008, when the franchise decided its championship-winning window had closed. The Pistons are almost 100 games under .500 since making the unpopular and unsuccessful move. The Pistons traded Billups in part to speed the development of Rodney Stuckey, to see if Allen Iverson could provide a spark while his contract expired, and to clear salary-cap space for the future.
"It was just a season of inevitable change and inevitable pain," Dumars said after the 2008-09 season ended by getting swept in the first round by the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. "Although it was a tough year, we also knew it was a necessary process if you're trying to position yourself to remain relevant."
Stuckey, who is still with the team, never became a dependable point guard. The millions spent in the summer of 2009 on free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva turned out to be wasted. The Pistons traded Gordon last summer to Charlotte for a first-round pick, basically to get his contract off the books. Detroit could still deal Villanueva, who is entering the last year of his deal, to a team that might want to take on his expiring contract later this summer or during the upcoming season.
The Pistons, 148-244 since trading Billups, are in a four-year postseason drought that is their longest since missing six straight from 1978 through 1983.
Billups, a five-time All-Star, turns 37 in September.
He tore his left Achilles tendon during the 2011-12 season, when he was limited to 20 games with the Los Angeles Clippers. He played 22 games for the Clippers last season.
Last month, in an interview with "First Take" on ESPN, Billups said, "I feel like I'm back healthy again."
Billups has averaged 15.4 points -- making 42 percent of his 3-pointers -- and 5.5 assists during his career.
Boston drafted him out of Colorado with the No. 3 pick in the 1997 draft, and he played with the Celtics for one season. He went on to play with Toronto, his hometown Denver Nuggets, Minnesota, Detroit, back to Denver, New York and the L.A. Clippers.
He bounced around early in his career and has done so lately, but he has always had fans at The Palace, which hasn't been the same buzz-filled building it once was since he was traded away. When Billups played his first game there after the trade on March 3, 2009, his signature introduction -- "Buh! Buh! Buh! Billups! -- set off a standing ovation that lasted a couple of minutes and led to him blowing kisses in each direction.
Back then, Billups said it was the most emotional regular-season game he's experienced in his 12-year career.
"I may forget the game and what happened," he said. "But the ovation and warm welcome the fans gave me, I'll never forget."
It's easy to forget how good the Pistons were after they signed him as a free agent in 2002.
With his steady play on the court and calm demeanor off it, Billups helped the Pistons win an NBA title and come within a victory of repeating while reaching at least the Eastern Conference finals in each of his six full seasons with them. Since 1970-71, the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers are the only other franchise to play in six straight conference finals.
The Pistons, though, seemed to be fading as a championship contender when they won just two games in three straight conference finals before trading Billups. As the Pistons try to make a climb back toward being a relevant NBA team, a goal that was helped by signing Josh Smith on Wednesday, they want Billups to return.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.