DALLAS — Want to know why teammates respect and admire Tayshaun Prince? Traded from the Detroit Pistons, the franchise he loyally clung to through the lean, post-championship years, he’s now just days away from beginning his first postseason since 2009 with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Is he excited to be back in the playoffs?
“I am excited,” Prince said after scoring a dozen points in the Grizzlies’ 103-97 win Monday against the Mavericks. “I’m more excited for Ed Davis, and I’m more excited for Austin Daye. Austin’s been with me for four years now. He was with me in the tough days in Detroit. I’m excited for those guys.”
For the third-year Davis and the fourth-year Daye, it will be their first forays beyond the regular season.
Prince, 33, an integral member of the 2004 champion Pistons, is one of the league’s most unassuming, thoughtful and grounded players. He goes to work and gives all he has to give, then does it again the next day and the next day. His 10-year run in Detroit ended in late January with a three-way trade. Memphis dealt the still quite youthful Rudy Gay to Toronto and Davis landed in Memphis along with the veteran Prince and his Pistons teammate Daye.
“I’m one of the last guys in this league that would let something affect me if somebody said why would they trade for an old, veteran guy and this and that,” said Prince, who acknowledged that the deal did take him by surprise. “I don’t care what people say about me. I have fun with it, I roll with it, it doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, we’ve got some good pieces.”
From a personality standpoint, the old veteran and his new, rather old-fashioned, grind-it-out team have been a near-perfect match with their blue collars raised proudly.
“I love Tayshaun,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said. “I love the way he plays, I love what he brings to the team, I love his leadership and the way he approaches the game of basketball.”
And Grizzlies fans have to be relieved and pleased with what they’ve seen after initial apprehension to Memphis’ new ownership group breaking up the long-held core of Gay, Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen before they could make a playoff run as a fully healthy unit.
Last year, Randolph was gimpy into the playoffs following a knee injury, and reserve forward Darrell Arthur missed the entire season. The Grizzlies blew Games 1 and 7 on their home floor and bowed out to the Clippers in the first round. The year before, Gay missed the playoffs with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Without him, the Grizzlies upset top-seeded San Antonio in the first round and took Oklahoma City to seven games in the second round.
Prince suggested that the 2011 run has actually helped boost this team’s confidence as they’ve meshed since the trade. They’ve reeled off 26 wins in 37 games and at 55-26, the Grizzlies have won the most games in a season in the franchise’s history.
“If you really look at it, that’s what made them the team they are. They found out they can play without him,” Prince said, referring to Gay’s playoff absence. “They found out that, ‘Hey, we can still compete at a high level because of the toughness, the team, the camaraderie.’
“So when they traded for me, I believe they were down when the trade first happened because they played with Rudy for so long and they were familiar with him. But I think after a few games, they were like, ‘You know what, we had a while where we didn’t play with Rudy and things were working out well for us. This may not be a bad idea; hey, this might work.’ At the end of the day, it’s all about competing and having fun. These guys are really tough-minded guys.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good chance at doing something special.”