– Tayshaun Prince may be the last mentor standing, but he doesn’t feel alone.

When the Timberwolves season started, the roster was full of older veterans brought in to give the young players role models.

One by one, they’ve gone.

First Andre Miller, and then Kevin Martin, were bought out. Center Nikola Pekovic has been hurt pretty much the whole season. Kevin Garnett missed his 19th game Monday due to a knee issue.

Prince, though, remains. He’s not playing as much since interim coach Sam Mitchell began giving Zach LaVine more starts and more minutes at the shooting guard position.

But he’s still playing, still trying to help the younger players. Prince wouldn’t say whether he had hoped for a buyout himself, and he isn’t ready to comment on what he will do after this season. But he said he does feel a measure of satisfaction at how he has helped the younger players.

“Guys are so young, it takes a while for them to get adjusted to what you’re trying to tell ’em,’’ Prince said. ‘‘Have I seen some improvement game to game? Yes. But there are times when they revert to their old ways.”

Deeper defense

Satisfied that his team is, in general, moving in the right direction on offense, Mitchell has begun a process of implementing more complex defensive schemes.

“A lot of stuff that we’ve done defensively has been vanilla,” Mitchell said. “We were just trying to keep it simple because we’re young. Now we’re starting to add things they need to do.”

The plan is to put in more specific schemes for that night’s opponent.

“We’re trying to give a little more detailed game plan, trying to get our guys to understand we can’t do the same thing night in and night out. The whole point is, if we’re ever going to be a playoff team one day, we get to the playoffs and you have to be able to change what you’re doing defensively game to game.”


• Mitchell didn’t find out reserve center/forward Greg Smith was injured until an hour before the game. Mitchell would have liked to have used him against Charlotte backup big man Al Jefferson, who scored 20 points.

It was an ingrown toenail that grounded Smith, who tried to play, but sat after less than 3 minutes. Limping after the game, he vowed to be available Tuesday against San Antonio.

“I have no idea. Maybe they’ll let me know two hours before the game instead of an hour,” Mitchell said when asked if he thought Smith would be available Tuesday. “I’m not happy about that. You don’t tell a coach an hour before a game that a guy playing 15 minutes a game is unavailable. That’s unacceptable.’’

• After trailing Jahlil Okafor for much of the season, Towns entered Monday’s game as this season’s top rookie scorer. With 28 points against Brooklyn Saturday, Towns’ average moved up to 17.6 points per game, just ahead of Okafor’s 17.5. Towns also leads rookies in minutes (30.8) and rebounds (10.2) per game.