A scrawny swingman must pick up where he left off in the playoffs
By L. Jon Wertheim
Team Page | Conference ranking: 2 | Overall ranking: 7
When Larry Brown replaced Rick Carlisle as coach of the Pistons last summer, one of his first moves was to contact Tayshaun Prince. "Get ready," Brown told the second-year forward, "to play some major minutes." Those aren't the words usually heard by a player who averaged 3.3 points and 1.1 rebounds as a rookie, especially one who didn't even take off his warmups in 40 of 82 regular-season games.
But Brown had vivid recollections of Prince's breakout performance in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Having finally cracked the rotation, Prince was indispensable in Detroit's six-game victory over Brown's 76ers. While Prince averaged 13.0 points on a medley of long-range jumpers, twisting fadeaways and nifty low-post moves, his versatility as a defender really caught Brown's eye. Prince is 6'9" and a lithe 215 pounds, but his wingspan is 7'2", enabling him to match up against opponents at four positions. "There aren't many guys who can guard Tracy McGrady in one series and Allen Iverson in the next," says Brown. "What team wouldn't want to take advantage of a player like that?"
Inspired by Prince's emergence, the Pistons traded forwards Clifford Robinson and Michael Curry. Likewise the presence of the Prince formerly known as DNP-CD made it easier for Detroit to pass up forward Carmelo Anthony with the No. 2 pick and draft 7-foot Darko Milicic. "Even when I was on the bench, I always knew I could play, so my confidence didn't really get low," Prince says. "As I get more experience, I think that I can be a top player in this league."
If his grasp comes anywhere close to equaling his prodigious reach, he may well be right.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons
"This is a true team with depth at every position -- but when all is said and done, I don't see the Pistons getting past New Jersey in the East.... It was mind-boggling when management decided that Rick Carlisle couldn't take them to the next level after he got the most out of this team in the last two years. At least Larry Brown is the one guy who could replace a highly successful coach and still get the players to listen and believe.... Rick and Larry have a lot in common, beginning with their commitment to defense. I can see Larry making a couple of minor changes: He'll let them freelance in their early offense a little more than Rick did, and he'll do more to establish Richard Hamilton as a go-to scorer by setting screens and posting him up against smaller guards. The one thing they might miss is Carlisle's energy. At 63 Larry will be trying to win NBA and Olympic championships back-to-back without a break over the next 11 months.... They're hoping to solve their big weakness -- rebounding -- with Darko Milicic, but he's an 18-year-old who has to adapt to a new language, a new culture and a coach who runs a ton of stuff. I'll be surprised if he doesn't develop paralysis by analysis.... Overall the center position is a strength for them in the East, though I don't understand why they gave 35-year-old Elden Campbell a big contract [two years, $8.4 million] to be their starter. He all but vanished last year with New Orleans and Seattle. At least they can use Ben Wallace at center, and Mehmet Okur can help out. When Okur learns to draw the double team, he'll become dangerous because he's a good passer.... Though Chauncey Billups is a clutch shooter and a winner, I don't see him as a bona fide point guard. Still, he's the kind of guy who improves as he gets more opportunities."
Issue date: October 27, 2003