January 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Terry Foster

Faded memories are Tayshaun Prince's Pistons legacy

The career of Tayshaun Prince came full circle during his 11 years with the Pistons.

Prince was the guy fans wanted more of his rookie season and his career here ended Wednesday with Prince being the guy fans could not wait to get rid of.

Prince is a Piston no more. He became the final piece of the 2004 championship team to leave when the Pistons traded Prince along with Austin Daye to Memphis in a three-way trade that brings point guard Jose Calderon to the Pistons from Toronto, which also dealt forward Ed Davis to Memphis. Forward Rudy Gay and center Hamed Haddadi went from Memphis to Toronto.

Prince's departure makes the Pistons a better team, something Prince fought hard to do but failed to do the last three years. The Pistons desperately needed a point guard because Brandon Knight is not ready to lead a team to the playoffs.

Still, there won't be many tears shed as Prince moves on to the next chapter of his career.

Age, rust and a buildup of losing records do that. It erases memories. Prince, 32, left as a guy who was more appreciated outside of Detroit than he was in Detroit. That is why he made the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. We remember the pump fakes to nowhere, the fading numbers and the sullen face.

What fans forget is the block of Reggie Miller in Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers that turned that series around and propelled the Pistons to their first NBA championship in 13 years. They forget his defense coupled with Ben Wallace that made the Pistons one of the best defensive teams in the league that season. Prince was a second-team All-Defensive Team pick four times in his career.

His best moments outside of the Miller block came in the 2004 NBA Finals when he frustrated Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during what is called by many as the Pistons' "five-game sweep" of the Lakers.

And they forget the important role Prince played in two NBA Finals runs. Prince fit in well when he was one of the gang playing alongside Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. He was a great fifth wheel. He was never a true superstar but played a super-important role. At times he was the Pistons' best player, especially in the playoffs.

Prince got exposed when he was asked to be a leader of the team. Although Prince carried great knowledge and experience, he lacked the personality and charisma to relay his great teachings to younger teammates. He followed Wallace and then Billups. And maybe that is his best role. Prince is a great follower and can be a wonderful glue guy in the right situation.

However, the Grizzlies should lean on Prince for more. He has a lot to give and Prince will become better on the floor because Memphis is in better shape to make a playoff run. They will love him in Memphis because Prince is a professional.

He was never really embraced here because Prince lacked the personality to win over fans. He had that sullen-looking mug that turned fans off. He said things that ticked off the fan base even when he spoke the truth.

In that regard he reminded me of Isiah Thomas, another Piston unafraid to speak his mind.

Sadly, there's hardly a dry eye with Prince's departure. He was a third wheel even on a bad team. When the Pistons asked him to carry the team, he usually failed. Scoring points in bunches never was Prince's game.

He's a facilitator. During our last conversation before the trade Prince spoke proudly of his role as a point forward. He was inching his way up the Pistons career assists list and he was just as proud of a big pass as he was of a big basket.

"I've been a point forward since day one," Prince said. "I forced coaches to let me get involved and make decisions. I knew eventually I would not be a center. They (coaches) had faith in me to kind of develop my game in different areas. "

Many questioned why team president Joe Dumars signed Prince to a four-year deal that has two years to run after this season. It was for this moment and this chance to shock a team that wants to desperately end a three-year playoff drought.

Prince was not that guy to lead the Pistons to the playoffs. But perhaps his departure can. Players can taste the playoffs, but the Pistons are on the outside looking in. Before leaving Prince summed up the importance of a playoff run.

"It would mean a lot," he said. "One thing it would mean from a mental standpoint is we have gotten better. When things went south before, they continued to go that way. This year when things are bad, we were able to pick each other up and get a win when we needed. That was the most important thing, when you lose, bounce back and not let things slide and slide and slide."

The Pistons were going nowhere with Tay. Now this might the shock to the system the team desperately needs.

terry.foster@detnews.com

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Tayshaun Prince's block of Reggie Miller in Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers turned that series around and propelled the Pistons to their first NBA championship in 13 years. / Ron Hoskins/Getty Images