In the broad swath of events that was the Nets off-season, the arrival of Taurean Prince in early June didn’t seem such a big deal. He was acquired as part of a trade whose main role was to free up salary cap space for the big signings of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
In the deal with Atlanta, the Nets acquired Prince and a second rounder in 2021 for Crabbe, the Nets first rounder in 2019 (which became Nickeil Alexander-Walker) and a protected pick in 2020.
Prince, as Anthony Puccio wrote day after the trade, is no slouch. He averaged 13.5 points and 3.6 rebounds last season, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. Prince is also an F.O.K., friend of Kevin Durant.
Why’d the Hawks give up on Prince, who’s only 25 and still on his rookie contract (at $3.48 million)? One reason is they would have to make a decision on a new deal this year. Atlanta has a number of young players with big contracts coming up. And he doesn’t fit into new coach Lloyd Pierce’s point guard-centric offense.
“That was 100 percent their decision,” Prince told Jabari Young of The Athletic, who caught up with him at his youth basketball camp in San Antonio, his hometown.
In short, Young wrote, Prince’s development was no longer part of the Hawks’ plan. When Prince started to realize and feel this, he knew his time in Atlanta would be ending.
“(They were) new people that weren’t a part of my draft process and weren’t a part of the belief system that I had coming into the league,” he said. “But no hard feelings. That’s just how the games goes.”
Now, he’s in Brooklyn where his role is yet to be defined. Doesn’t matter, he says. “I’m there to hoop,” Prince said. “All the other (stuff) comes with it.”
Prince is likely to see minutes at both the 3 and 4, much like DeMarre Carroll did the last two seasons. Prince is eight years younger than Carroll. When his friend KD returns, those minutes will likely fall. No matter how much time he spends on the court, one of the biggest assets he will bring to Brooklyn is his shooting.
“I think he fits that identity of how we want to play with his ability to shoot the ball,” Hawks GM Travis Schlenk told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June after he was traded. “I’ve stated many times, and I honestly believe this: He is one of the best spot-up shooters in the NBA. That is what every team is looking for.”
That of course includes the Nets. The Nets will need his 3-point shooting and defense. They lost D’Angelo Russell, who holds the franchise record for 3-pointers as well as Carroll, Jared Dudley and of course Crabbe.
He says he’s looking forward to a career with the Nets.
“As of right now, I plan to stay with Brooklyn as long as possible,” Prince told Young. “Whether that be the rest of my career or one year, two years, three years, it doesn’t matter to me. Like I said, I’m paying attention to detail and taking advantage of the opportunities God keeps presenting in my life.”
In that regard, Prince offered the young people at his camp a lesson in professionalism, one that could apply to him in this year’s Nets rotation.
“No matter the circumstances,” Prince said, “if you’re not playing, if you’re playing, you still got to do certain things to become and stay a pro, regardless of your position or minutes that you’re getting. It’s an everyday thing. I think that’s why certain All-Stars are certain All-Stars — they bring it more and more on a consistent basis.
“It all translates to real life, not just a sport. If you’re not paying attention to detail (on the court), then you most likely aren’t in real life, either.”
The Nets and Prince visit Atlanta on December 4.
- Before he joins Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, Taurean Prince paid tribute to his San Antonio roots - Jabari Young - The Athletic