For a majority of his NBA career, Tayshaun Prince has become a fixture when it comes to meeting with the chaplain before games.
Sunday afternoon was no exception.
After partaking in the pregame shootaround, Prince, the recently-acquired Memphis Grizzlies small forward, found his way to the room reserved for coach Lionel Hollins’ postgame news conference to meet with chaplain Donald Johnson, where he had the privilege of absorbing some spiritual wisdom and guidance.
“I do that everywhere I go,” Prince said. “As busy as our schedule is, we don’t get to visit church on Sunday. What a prime opportunity to spend 15 minutes and share some experiences with Donald and just communicate and opening our minds and putting faith where it should be. But I’m going to do it no matter what. I’m going to continue to give thanks and try to be the best man I can be. And when I don’t do things right, I’ll try my best to get back on track.”
Prince’s unrelenting faith seemingly has benefited him mightily during a professional career that spans 10-plus seasons. After 10 profitable seasons in Detroit that included the Compton, Calif. native having assumed a pivotal role during the Pistons’ unlikely NBA title run in 2004, Prince is hopeful to have a similar impact for a revamped Grizzlies team that boast championship aspirations.
Known primarily for his defensive prowess, given he was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team for four consecutive seasons dating from 2005-2008, Prince has often demonstrated to have been equally efficacious offensively. Such was the case in Sunday’s contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves when Prince enjoyed arguably his best outing in his brief time with his new team.
In leading the Grizzlies to a decisive 105-88 win in FedExForum, the 6-foot-9 veteran finished with a team-high 18 points and tied a franchise-record by connecting on each of his eight field goal attempts, a feat that coincidentally was manufactured by shooting guard Tony Allen against the Timberwolves in January of last year.
The 32-year-old Prince was especially efficient throughout a pivotal third quarter in which the Grizzlies witnessed a ten-point halftime advantage swell to as many as 21. Prince, by all accounts, was the catalyst of the Grizzlies’ second-half surge, scoring 11 points during a key 15-4 spurt in the third against a short-handed Timberwolves squad to help propel Memphis to its second consecutive win.
Hollins seemed intrigued by Prince’s display, considering he took a moment to joke during his postgame news conference that he contemplated sending Prince back in the game for defensive purposes, most notably at the 3:38 mark of the fourth when Minnesota’s Chris Johnson’s alley-oop dunk off a lob from Alexey Shved trimmed Grizzlies’ margin to 13.
“Zach (Randolph) didn’t want me to put (Prince) back out there,” Hollins said with a grin.
Still, on a night in which Grizz center Marc Gasol, the team’s second-leading scorer, struggled to match his energy from the previous game against Golden State when the 7-foot-1 Spaniard registered 20 points on 9-of-14 field goals, it was Prince’s breakout game for Memphis that essentially enabled the Grizzlies to regain sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference standings heading into this week’s All-Star break.
“I’ve just been in the gym getting extra shots up, just trying to get in a good rhythm,” Prince said in assessing his performance against Minnesota. “I’ve known since I got here my legs have been a little heavy, so I’m just trying to take care of my body off the court and hopefully that way, knock some shots down. Obviously, by any means, I don’t expect to have games like that, but I just had a good rhythm and good flow. And the best thing about that is guys will keep looking for you.”
Traded on January 30 to the Grizzlies in a three-team deal that included bringing fellow Pistons teammate Austin Daye to Memphis and sending Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto, Prince admittedly sensed that coming in he would inherit a situation in which his game would often draw comparisons to that of Gay who, like Prince, is savvy a small forward who’s armed with the ability to create his own shot from the perimeter.
“You know what, I can’t control that,” said Prince, who averages 11.5 points for Memphis. “I’m not going to control that. The only thing I can try to worry about is to help this team and try to show these guys in the locker room my support and what I can bring to this and the coaching staff. I’m not concerned with trying to show people that I can replace somebody. That’s something that I can’t do. What I can do is be me.
“There will be some games where I will score the basketball,” continued Prince, “and then there will be some games where I’ll do some other things. I’m not that 20-point scorer that Rudy Gay had shown and what his capabilities are. We’re two different basketball players.”
Regardless, the Grizzlies have benefited immensely from Gay and Prince’s contrasting roles. While Gay, for instance, had proven to be an occasional game-changer during his 6 ½-year tenure with the team, Prince has gone to great lengths in recent days to spread his spiritual wealth around the Grizzlies’ locker room.
“Yeah, I’ll hold conversations with these guys,” Prince said. “A few guys who have seen me walk in and out (to meet with the chaplain) they know where I’m going, and I’ll bring with me a few passages back with me back show those guys. Obviously, that’s been apart of my pregame ritual where I’ll go out and shoot then go to the chapel and then do some other things. That’s what I do on a daily basis.”
If nothing else, his relentless faith seemingly gave way to his prayers being answered in a rather perfect way on Sunday.