The last remaining member of the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons is gone.
The Pistons confirmed Wednesday night — during the fourth quarter of a 98-79 loss at Indiana — that Tayshaun Prince is heading to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade. The Grizzlies also get Pistons forward Austin Daye and send their star swingman, Rudy Gay, to the Toronto Raptors.
The Pistons receive point guard Jose Calderon from the Raptors. Calderon is in the final year of a five-year, $45 million contract — $10.5 million for this season — meaning the Pistons will have more salary-cap room after the season.
Prince, who turns 33 on Feb. 28 and has spent his entire NBA career with the Pistons, will forever be remembered in team lore for “The Block.”
During the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller was headed for what looked like an uncontested layup to tie the score in the final minute of Game 2. But Prince prevented it.
Racing from the other side of the court, Prince seemed to come out of nowhere, using every bit of his lengthy wingspan to block Miller’s shot at the last possible second. Detroit’s Richard Hamilton ended up with the ball, and the Pistons held on to win the game, the series and eventually the NBA title.
It was a signature moment for that team and for Prince, a first-round (23rd overall) pick by the Pistons in the 2002 NBA Draft who first emerged as a rising star in the 2003 playoffs.
Another great memory of Prince is one in which he wasn’t even there.
In the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Hamilton were all chosen as Eastern Conference reserves. Prince was the odd-man out.
Rasheed Wallace suggested that he and his fellow Pistons write Prince’s No. 22 on their shoes so he could be on the floor with them in spirit. Prince, who was vacationing with his wife in the Bahamas that weekend, didn’t see the game but heard about what his teammates had done and was touched by it.
That’s part of what made that 2004 team so special, how the players had that close bond. They truly were a team on and off the court.
There’s the old joke about how some teams have 12 players and 12 different cabs when on the road. Those 2004 Pistons were the opposite. Every dinner on the road was a team dinner.
To this day, those players remain close friends. When Billups came to town with the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season, he, Ben Wallace and Prince all had dinner together.
No doubt, Prince has already heard from a few of those guys.
Memphis is a nice place for Prince and Daye to land. The Grizzlies (29-15) are fourth in the Western Conference and appear to be headed to the playoffs.
The Pistons (17-29) are 10th in the Eastern Conference and haven’t been to the playoffs since a first-round defeat in 2009.
It will be up to Joe Dumars, Pistons president of basketball operations, to spend the cap money wisely. If he can parlay the cash into a star player, then perhaps Wednesday will be looked upon as the dawn of a new era instead of the end of an old one.