Detroit Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy said that when he acquired Tayshaun Prince from the Celtics on Thursday, it was to become a part of the rotation, not to buy him out.
Van Gundy said it was unfair to blame the Pistons for denying Prince the chance to seek a new home.
Detroit acquired the 34-year-old forward, who is under contract for $7.7 million, from Boston for Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome, who will make a combined $6.25 million this season.
“The reason Boston made the trade is to save money,” Van Gundy told reporters on Saturday. “We’re paying Tayshaun more money. If he was going to get bought out, he should have done it in Boston. They should let him be bought out. That’s not on me to buy him out. That’s not part of the deal.”
Van Gundy continued, “I understand he didn’t get what he wanted, but the question you’re asking should be asked of Danny Ainge, not of us. We didn’t break any agreement.”
Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, told the Globe by phone on Sunday that Boston intended to explore a buyout with Prince if it was unable to trade him before Thursday’s deadline, and Prince understood that. But Ainge said the Celtics never told Prince that Detroit would agree to a buyout after the trade.
“We knew that the Pistons wanted him and we told him that,” Ainge said. “I don’t think Stan [Van Gundy] knows anything we told Tayshaun, but I did express to Tayshaun that they wanted him to go there to play.”
Van Gundy said he was unaware of Prince’s desire to be bought out until after the trade had been completed. But on Sunday, Van Gundy said Prince had moved on and was “ready to play.” The Pistons, who also traded for Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson on Thursday, are just one half-game out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Ainge said that as much as teams can try to accommodate the wishes of veteran players seeking to join playoff teams, the reality is that you can’t always get what you want.
“I know there’s a lot of players that would like to be in a place rather than where they are, but at the same time, you know, it’s unpredictable,” Ainge said. “You’re talking to a player that was traded twice. It happens.”
The new guys
The Celtics’ three newcomers joined the team at shootaround on Sunday afternoon. Thomas, Jerebko, and Datome took the court, took some shots, and some mental notes.
Thomas was acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. At the end of the shootaround, Stevens pulled him aside for a few moments.
“I just said ‘Hi, my name is Brad Stevens. I’m one of the coaches, and if you have any questions, here’s my cellphone number,’ ” Stevens said with a smile.
Jerebko was sick on Sunday and questionable to face the Lakers. He averaged 5.2 points per game for the Pistons.
“He’s a big that can shoot, play the 3 or the 4,” Stevens said. “What I think he’s really good at is driving and closeouts, so I like his skill set.”
With Jared Sullinger’s season-ending injury and with Kelly Olynyk still sidelined with a sprained ankle, Jerebko knows his role could grow quickly. “There’s a few games left for me to show what I can do,” said Jerebko, who has a $4.5 million expiring contract. “There’s a lot of emotions right now, but it’s just fun. I’m excited to play and help this team make this playoff push.”
Datome played 17 minutes for the Pistons this season.
“I didn’t see [the trade] coming, but I’m happy, because as you guys know, I played only three games in Detroit, so a new opportunity,” Datome said. “I’m very happy and very proud to wear the jersey.”
As Thomas prepared to make his Celtics debut, it could have caused some conflicting emotions for his father, James, who is a die-hard Lakers fan. But Isaiah said that family loyalty trumps team allegiance.
“He just bought a Boston hat,” Isaiah Thomas said with a smile. “He likes anywhere I’m at. He’s gonna be a Lakers fan [because] he’s from here. But now he said he’s a Boston fan. Everybody in my family is gonna get the green now.”
The Celtics’ first game after the deal was against Thomas’s former team, the Kings. He was not with Boston that night, but on Monday he will face the team he just left, the Suns.
“I’m happy to be somewhere I’m wanted,” Thomas said, “and hopefully I’m here for a while.”