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Prince feels right at home in Grizzlies' win over Wizards

The SportsXchange

By Ron Higgins

MEMPHIS -- Even as someone as stoic as pokerfaced Tayshaun Prince could not ignore the enormity of the moment.

He had started 798 straight games (695 in regular season, 103 in playoffs) when healthy, dating to 2004-05 for the Detroit Pistons.

But here was on Friday night in FedExForum, entering a game for the first time in his 11 NBA seasons not wearing a No. 22 Pistons uniform, instead donning a Memphis Grizzlies jersey with his old University of Kentucky No. 21.

Prince's new fashion statement seems to be a good fit even if it felt a bit strange. He scored 14 points in his first game with the Grizzlies to help lead Memphis to an 85-76 win over.

"I knew where I was and who I was playing with tonight," said Prince, who scored eight points in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies (30-16) were trying to hold off the pesky Wizards (11-34). "Seeing all the trades over the years and never being part of one, this is definitely different. But the guys, the staff and the fans made it easy for me."

The 32-year-old Prince, a starter for almost his entire career, was traded to Memphis along with Austin Long and Ed Davis from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies' leading scorer, and reserve center Hamed Haddadi.

All three new acquisitions played, but it was Prince, as expected, who smoothly blended with his new teammates, playing almost 32 minutes.

From point guard Mike Conley, who had a game-high 18 points to center Marc Gasol, who contributed 13 points and 15 rebounds, Prince's new teammates marveled at his quick adjustment.

"I was surprised at how well he (Prince) came in and engaged in the system," Conley said. "He was talking, communicating. He didn't seem shy. He felt comfortable. He took shots when he was open, he made plays for guys, made defensive stops. He learned our defensive coverage pretty quick."

The Wizards, which entered the game a half-game ahead of Charlotte from having the NBA's worst record, gave the Grizzlies fits for two-and-a-half quarters. Even with Wizards' point guard John Wall battling through a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the second quarter, Washington led 40-39 at the half and didn't give it up for good until the final 5:40 of the third quarter.

Memphis, even with bangers Gasol and Randolph, had problems slowing down Nene, who had 14 points and four assists. Wizards' coach Randy Wittman felt his team could have grabbed control in the second quarter, but didn't because it settled for outside shots.

The Wizards finished shooting 41 percent from the field, the Grizzlies ended at 44.9 percent.

"We missed 13 straight shots (in the second quarter)," Wittman said, "because we stopped throwing the ball inside. We went from playing inside-out and took perimeter shots. We can't do that when things are going a certain way."

For the Grizzlies' coach Lionel Hollins, who has had to incorporate five new players to the roster obtained in two trades and a NDBL signee last week, Friday's first half had the feel of an exhibition game.

But Hollins knows that in the coming weeks, especially when sixth man Quincy Pondexter is back in action after spraining the medial collateral knee ligament, competition for playing time is going to be fierce.

"There's going to be a rotation of seven or eight players, and that's going to be it," Hollins said. "I don't believe you can play everybody and be effective."

Notes: Gasol's 13 points and 15 rebounds was his seventh double-double of the season. ... The Wizards had 12 steals, including three by Garrett Temple, to tie a Griz opponent season high. ... Memphis has won eight straight times in FedExForum over the Wizards. The Grizzlies' only home loss to the Wizards came on Nov. 3, 2004, the first game played in the Griz's new home after moving from The Pyramid. ... Memphis had held 40 of 46 opponents under 100 points this season. ... The Griz are 22-2 when outshooting its opponent.
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