Last season, most Detroit Pistons fans came to the conclusion that the Tayshaun Prince era was finally coming to an end in Detroit.
Furthermore, most seemed to be okay with it.
Prince has been a somewhat enigmatic player for Detroit. He burst on the scene as a rookie in the playoffs, coming out of nowhere to help contain Tracy McGrady, then showcased his offensive prowess against Philadelphia.
More than a few fans thought they were glimpsing a future star in the making.
It never really happened that way. Prince became a solid scorer and a good defender, but he never reached that upper-echelon of talent that most fans hoped he would achieve.
Now the Pistons have a major decision to make and what was once a slam-dunk, now appears to be an open door.
The Detroit Free Press is floating the idea that Detroit could choose to re-sign Prince.
The Case for a Return
I will admit, I was shocked at the idea that Prince could be back.
To me, there was no real reason for him to return. He is from the West Coast and both the Clippers and Warriors are looking to shake up their rosters and could use Prince.
Besides, the Pistons are looking to become younger and turn the page on the old guard in Detroit.
Re-signing Prince would be expensive for a position that is fairly easy to fill...or is it?
Looking around the NBA, there are not a lot of great options at small forward. You have aging players like Shane Battier and Andrei Kirilenko that are still skilled, but somewhat limited in their own ways.
Besides, those guys likely will still command top dollar.
There are also younger guys that could be had, such as Thaddeus Young and a whole host of others, but most of them are somewhat unproven.
None of the small forward options possess Prince's combination of offensive and defensive skill while still young enough to contribute for a few years.
The internal options for small forward are even more suspect.
Rookie Kyle Singler is planning on staying in Spain this year, so he is no longer an option.
Jonas Jerebko could play some minutes at the three, but most view him as an energy guy coming off the bench to spell both forward spots.
And then there is Austin Daye. If you are sold on Daye becoming the next Prince, or even the next Michael Curry, you are in the minority.
Daye has talent, but he has also proven to be a follower, and not in a good way. Last year, he was all too happy to become a headache just like the rest of the players during the Kuester mutiny.
That being said, his play on the court is still suspect in itself. He improved as a shooter, but he still was reluctant to go to the hoop and was routinely torched on defense.
It is very unlikely that the Pistons are sold on Daye being able to step in and start.
It is more likely that they want this year for him to take that next step. Not to be a starter, but to be a regular contributor.
Why Would he Stay?
The Free Press thinks that new coach Lawrence Frank likes Prince. This would imply that Frank could reach out to Prince to help sell him on staying.
I don't know how much influence a new coach will have on Prince, but I could be wrong.
There are two reasons Prince would be swayed to stay, and they are somewhat linked. One, the Pistons can pay him more money than anyone else since they own his Larry Bird rights. Two, there has been a real lack of chatter concerning Prince, so there might not be much interest there.
The second point is the most important in this equation. Most of the big boys already have their starting small forward. The Celtics have Paul Pierce, the Heat have LeBron, the Knicks have Carmelo and even the Lakers have Metta World Peace (I hate that I have to call him that).
This leaves the secondary teams as options, but they have been surprisingly mum on this issue. Most have focused on big men free agents like Marc Gasol or Nene, or are delusional and think they can get Dwight Howard or Chris Paul.
The only team that has been linked to Prince has been the Clippers, but they are currently putting together a package for the Hornets to consider for Paul.
If the Clippers take too long, the Pistons might just swoop in and re-sign their forward.
Another possibility is that the Pistons could sign-and-trade Prince to get a big man, presumably the Clippers own Chris Kaman.
Those talks have been dusted off again and if the Clippers strike out on Paul, they could re-inquire about this deal.
The lack of interest in Prince surely has caught everyone off guard. The Pistons thought for sure they would have no shot at bringing him back, so the fact that nobody is rushing to scoop him up is changing things.
Pair that with the fact that their own internal and external options for replacing Prince are weak and you have a real recipe for a reunion.
The only real question is how much it will cost. The Pistons surely won't bid against themselves, so they will be looking for a discounted price for Prince.
Anything more than a four-year deal would be idiotic for Detroit and they really shouldn't spend more than $6-8 million a year on Prince.
Now this may seem like a huge pay cut, but Prince's age and ability are a factor here.
My gut still says that Prince will walk. Once the big name players are moved, there will be a market that develops for Prince and likely one that will allow him to make close to $10 million per season.