Constant Cool

In a season of Pistons ups and downs, Tayshaun Prince is Mr. Steady

Just as it's been from the day he walked in the door, Prince's steady contributions often go overlooked but not unappreciated by those who study the game most closely.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
There are so many peaks and valleys in an NBA season and right now the Pistons, with their new lineup and new rotation, are at something of a peak. You have to be happy for the young players getting a chance, especially Greg Monroe, and the renaissance man, Tracy McGrady. You also have to feel for Rip Hamilton, who at least for the moment is out of the rotation, probably for the first time since he started playing basketball. I certainly appreciate everything Rip has done for the Pistons and I know his teammate, Tayshaun Prince, does, too.

When you think about it, Tayshaun has been the mainstay this season. And with the exception of last year, when he finally missed a game, he’s been a cornerstone for this franchise it seems like forever. He’s an underrated player – but not in the eyes of coaches or scouts or other players. I think fans sometimes overlook the incredible overall ability Tayshaun has.

He’s been in double figures all but seven games this season and he doesn’t really look to score unless his team needs him to score. This season, they’ve needed it more than in the past. I think he’ll average over 15 points a game this season without calling for the ball or demanding a shot. Tonight against Boston, he’ll almost assuredly go over 8,000 career points – he needs just five to get there.

I just like the fact he can do so many things. He’s always asked to cover an exceptional scorer. Paul Pierce will be his assignment in this game, and you don’t always succeed when you’re guarding somebody like that, but – believe me – he slows them down.

He’s had a 12-rebound game, an eight-assist game, we know he’s a shot-blocker – rare at the small forward position – and he’s scored over 30 in games this season. When you really look at Tayshaun as an offensive threat, he’s a guy that is probably going to score if you don’t give the defender some help.

He’s so calm, cool and collected – that’s the beauty of watching him play. When he gets the ball, no matter what the situation, no matter how critical the possession, he knows how much time he has and he knows what he has to do. And, like a surgeon, he cuts up the defender. He’s so precise. I can’t tell you how many clutch shots I’ve seen him make. He makes a lot of moves without looking at the basket – he only looks at the basket at the last split second when he’s in a one-on-one situation, and he still usually gets nothing but net.

In my profession, I get an incredible opportunity not many people have – I can watch the greatest players in the world perform night in and night out. When you only watch one team throughout a season, you get a good glimpse of the rest of the league but a terrific look at the guys in Pistons uniforms. There’s a short list of players who can do what Tayshaun can do. It’s been a privilege to watch him play all these years.

I’ve always thought he had more ability than the average guy can see if you don’t watch him over time. He can be the perfect complementary player, but he can be a big-time option down the stretch if you need him to be that. I’ve watched Tayshaun since he played at Kentucky. When I broadcast Michigan State games for a few seasons in addition to doing Pistons games, I saw him play at the Breslin Center and it struck me that he just always knew how to play the game.

Whatever his team has needed, he’s always seemed ready and able to do it. I’ve seen that during his entire time with the Pistons – a guy who not only understands the game, he understands the situation. It’s always a pleasure to see the results. I like guys who don’t get flustered – as I put it, guys who can’t be bothered – and he’s clearly one of them. And that’s easier said than done.

He started out as a guy known for his defense, which is remarkable for an NBA rookie, and I think that’s where he earned his playing time. There’s no doubt everybody’s offensive game evolves, but I think Tayshaun had a lot of it from the beginning. He just wasn’t asked to use it and he was patient about it. He knew his time would come and it has.

He’s always been out winning and competing for championships. The run he and the Pistons core group had was incredible. I know that nobody wanted to play them. If you stopped them in one area, it opened the floodgates in another.

As this transitional era for the Pistons continues, with the ups and downs you would expect, it’s been a pleasure for me to watch one of the constants, Tayshaun Prince.