Auburn Hills — It would be understandable if Tayshaun Prince returned to the Pistons a bitter man.
Instead of being free to sign wherever he wants, he must report to the Pistons.
The Boston Celtics gave him the shaft by trading him to the Pistons for Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome. The Celtics should have done the honorable thing and bought out Prince and give him a chance to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that wants him and needs him for the playoff stretch.
It is not the Pistons job to make Prince happy. I get it. They made the trade because they can use him. He is not viewed as a throwaway by Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. He is viewed as a throw-in for a team that is doing everything it can to sneak into the playoffs, no matter how briefly.
Van Gundy believes Prince can be the difference-maker at small forward along with Caron Butler.
Prince was scheduled to report Saturday night and there is a slight chance he could play in Sunday's game at The Palace against the Washington Wizards. But he does not belong here. He belongs with a team with a chance to make the NBA Finals.
There were reports out of Boston that Prince was going to ask the Pistons to buy him out and allow him to fly away to another team. It looks like that won't happen. The man who was once the Prince of The Palace is now a pawn of The Palace.
The man who played on the 2004 NBA title team and provided us with The Block deserves better. The Celtics hinted that they were going to release Prince, who is on the last season of his contract but who many feel will retire after the season. He played the good soldier, played some of his best basketball of the season, and then got slapped in the face by the leprechaun, general manager Danny Ainge.
"He was led to believe one thing but that is certainly not on us," Van Gundy said. "It's not my decision. In other words the reason Boston made the trade was in order to save money. If he was going to get bought out they would have done it in Boston. That's not on me to buy him out. We were not told this after we made the trade by Tayshaun's agent. Why would we trade guys who are making less money to take on more money? That would have been the worst personnel move ever. It is not on us."
This is why players often grumble "It's a business" when they are traded, released and benched. They know the bottom line is teams do what is best for the team. Players are highly paid pieces of meat that come and go. Yes, they are well paid and pampered but when they are no longer needed they are treated as table scraps.
Prince is now a table scrap. The Celtics used him to save money. Now the Pistons are using him because they believe he can help them make the playoffs — not win a title. Prince could be in the hunt for a title with the Clippers. But it appears as if he will not get his chance. And it is a shame.
"We didn't break any agreement with him," Van Gundy said. "There is no reason for us to buy him out. They (the Celtics) would have bought him out if they wanted to. We would not have a reason to take on an addition $400,000 to $500,000 to waive the guy. Why would we do that? If that was the case we would have just kept the guys we had and Boston can waive him. He was led to believe one thing but that is certainly not on us."
Van Gundy is right but it goes to show how things change in professional sports. Prince was once one of the most coveted guys in the NBA. Now he is a guy who must do as he is told as he fell prey in a power play between two teams.
This is not right. But what choice does Prince have but to report to the Pistons? If he does not then he is a rich and spoiled, unappreciative athlete, although I believe he was led to believe he would be freed by the Celtics.
If he does report then he will play a lot and maybe get into the playoffs only to be smacked around by Toronto or Atlanta in the playoffs.