AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — It’s easier to move on when the place you’re going is heading to a familiar place — the playoffs.
Tayshaun Prince, who had spent every game in his 10-year career with the Detroit Pistons before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies Jan. 30, got a chance to say an official goodbye to Pistons fans Tuesday night.
The Grizzlies got off to a slow start, trailing 30-22 after one quarter, before dominating the rest of the way en route to a 105-91 victory and a 34-18 record.
The Grizzlies are headed toward their third straight playoff appearance while the Pistons (21-34) are more likely lottery-bound again.
“We came out flat, which I was kind of nervous about, being after the All-Star break,” Prince said, looking strange in the visitors’ locker room. “Obviously you want to be able to play as best as possible when you play against your old team for the first time.
“Missed a couple easy ones but we couldn’t get in a good rhythm in the game, but I thought Quincy Pondexter and Tony Allen changed the game for us in the second quarter with their energy. It’s a good win for us.”
The Grizzlies are currently fourth in the Western Conference behind San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Prince admitted to being amused by his new team’s fixation on the standings with 30 games left to play in the regular season.
“Game by game, guys kind of tend to look at the standings and stuff like that, which I’m not familiar with because even when I was with the teams where we were (winning), we weren’t even looking at the standings,” Prince said. “We didn’t care about them. These guys care about the standings. They’re like, ‘Man, we lost, look at it.’ They see that loss on the right column and they’re mad.
“I’m like, come on man, let’s worry about what we’re doing tomorrow. This game is over, let’s worry about Toronto now. They’ve had some great success over the last few years, they’re a great-knot group, great chemistry. But just trying to tell the guys, let’s take this one day at a time, let’s not worry about what’s going to lie ahead when that time comes.”
The Grizzlies are different from those Pistons playoff teams that Prince was on. Those were made up of veteran, battle-tested players with Prince being one of the younger guys.
Now Prince, along with 11-year veteran Zach Randolph (Michigan State) and eight-year veteran Tony Allen, is one of the veterans.
While Prince is trying to help the young Grizzlies live in the moment, he had his own moment when the Pistons not only introduced him as the last of the Grizzlies starters, they showed a tribute video during the game. At the end of it, the video board read, “Thank you, Tayshaun.”
“I expected it, for the simple fact of what they’ve done for the other guys that were here,” Prince said. “Definitely appreciative. I knew the fans would be appreciative, they were always appreciative when I was here. Just a fun night for us. I wish I would have played a little better but my team stepped up for me, they played great.
“I talk to those guys all the time, every day. When they play, when we play, we always keep in contact. Those definitely are my brothers over there.”
Also now playing for the Grizzlies is Austin Daye, who only spent a little over three seasons with the Pistons. The Pistons recognized Daye the first time he checked into the game.
Daye, who dined with former teammate Charlie Villanueva Monday night, is energized by the Grizzlies’ playoff expectations, something he didn’t experience in Detroit.
“When you’re playing for a playoff team, every game counts,” Daye said. “It’s very important. We look at every game to help us move into the rankings. It’s been a great opportunity for me.”
Prince’s return was an opportunity for Pistons’ beat writers to ask him about how he nearly ended up as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in a proposed trade which would have brought Kobe Bryant to Detroit in 2007.
After Lakers owner Jerry Buss passed away Monday, Bryant revealed that he had vetoed that deal.
“Kobe would have looked weird in a Pistons jersey,” said Prince, a native of Compton, Calif. “My man’s been in the league 16-17 years, it’d be weird seeing him in another jersey. I’m pretty sure everybody’s saying that about me, too. But if that was to happen, who knows? I’m not going down that road because it didn’t happen.”
Prince said he didn’t need to return to the Palace to have closure on his Pistons chapter. He got that after his first game in a Grizzlies uniform.
But he was happy to be back in a place where he had such great memories.
“I thank those guys for what they did for me, for my family,” Prince said. “I don’t hold no grudge whatsoever. It’s a great time. You never want to end nowhere on a bad note, as we all know. Nobody wants to do that. It’s definitely unfortunate but I love all those guys, got great relationships with everybody.”
Although Prince didn’t feel that the Pistons were able to return to their previous glory while he was still there, he felt they were on the right track and still does.
“I liked where we were going from Christmas onto where I got traded,” Prince said. “Things were going well, we were playing well. If we lost a game, we responded well, got a win. Before that, we just go on losing streaks right and left because we would always worry about this and that. The guys’ mindset was great right before I moved and things were going better. They made the decision and that’s what it is.
“I’m not disappointed in the decision. I’m not worried about it. I’m at a point now where I’ve got to start another chapter in my life.”