PHOENIX – Earlier in the season, Taurean Prince had a lot of adjusting to make.
There was a new coaching staff, and Prince wanted to make sure he was prioritizing the things coach Chris Finch and his staff wanted him to do. There was a new defensive system, one that involves playing high on the pick and roll, which asks a lot of the Wolves' rotational players to backfill in the paint. It was a system Prince said he hadn't played much, if at all, in his six-season career.
So Prince, like a lot of bench players in the NBA, saw his playing time fluctuate. But of late, he has been a staple of the rotation.
"Maybe he was trying to accommodate, overthink things, accommodate too much of what we were asking him to do," Finch said. "Maybe we confused him. He was trying to fit in too much that he was playing himself right out of rhythm. Right now he's playing with way more determination in everything he's doing."
Prince's offensive numbers haven't jumped off the page; he's averaging just 4.7 points, a career low, but Finch has given him minutes because of his defensive versatility.
"I've been comfortable. It's just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity I've been given," Prince said. "I fell short in little areas in the beginning of the season, but that comes with adjustment. New team, new staff. I believe this is Finch's first head coaching job too so it's new for him, trying to figure out what he likes, being in that position. I'm a big guy that adapts to the surroundings pretty quick."
Finch said he appreciated Prince's ability to make quick decisions on offense, especially as it related to attacking closeouts. That helps that offense run smoothly, even if Prince isn't scoring a lot.
"Just reps, man," Prince said of his effectiveness in that area. "Just working on repping out against closeouts, locating whether to shoot the ball quick or get to the dribble, get to the lane and making decisions either for myself, at the rim or the next guy open. Just a lot of reps, lot of offseason work."
Patrick Beverley missed his fourth consecutive game because of a right ankle sprain, and two other Wolves were added to the injury report Friday — D'Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt.
Russell missed the game because of a left shin contusion that caused him to leave Thursday's game against the Warriors in the second half. Finch said the team was hopeful Russell would be able to play Sunday against Utah.
Vanderbilt joined the injury report as questionable because of a right midfoot sprain. Finch said Vanderbilt's status was a game-time decision based on his pregame workout. He ultimately played and scored seven points.
One long season
Before the game, Finch was asked about the amount of injuries around the league this season and said the past three seasons have felt like "one 225-game season to me" because of the way COVID-19 has upended the schedule and teams' offseasons.
"It feels like it's the same season that we've never been able to get out of," Finch said. "It really does. This COVID era, it just feels the same. I think we're playing every other day, you're feeling the effects of the shorter offseason, the effects of the rushed season before that."
"To me it's a continuum. It doesn't even feel like a separate season."