Prince doesn’t agree with low expectations for Hawks

Atlanta Hawks’ Taurean Prince reacts to scoring against the Washington Wizards and drawing the foul in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series on Monday, April 24, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Hawks’ Taurean Prince reacts to scoring against the Washington Wizards and drawing the foul in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series on Monday, April 24, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Taurean Prince wants to win.

It doesn’t matter the current or future composition of the Hawks roster.

The second-year forward was vehement when questioned about the Hawks’ low expectations next season considering the transformation of the team.

“No, no, no,” Prince said when asked if next season could be difficult considering the changes to the roster. “I disagree. I don’t like to go off the rebuilding word because I like to win. I love to win. Anybody who is on the team, I’m going to make sure that they love to win too. I don’t expect to have a bad season next year. I expect to have a good season.”

Prince, a first-round pick last season, saw his own transformation. He went from playing sparingly to starting during the playoffs as a rookie. Prince is one of only two starters – along with Dennis Schroder – still on the team from the unit that began games in the first-round playoff series against the Wizards. Gone are Tim Hardaway Jr, Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard.

Prince is a part of the young core the Hawks are building around while compiling future draft picks. He will join Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Mike Muscala, Malcolm Delaney, DeAndre Bembry and this year’s first-round pick John Collins as a nucleus. There is still work to be done with the roster, but it’s clear that Prince is a central figure.

“All I can do is continue to work on my game, prepare myself for whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Prince said. “We really don’t know what the team will look like until two months from now.

“That’s why we kept a lot of the young guys and we brought a lot of young guys in. Just have to take it for what it is. Gather together and get better together.”

Prince, as may be expected after his rookie season, has been a standout with the Hawks’ entry in the Las Vegas Summer League with his all-around play. In three games, he averaged 11.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He has made just 12 of 39 shots, including 3 of 13 from 3-point range.

Prince said he has used to the summer league to work on his game and leadership skills. Both will be needed next season.

“I’m working on my ball-handling, decision-making, just being a better pick-and-roll player,” Prince said. “Just putting myself in a lot of uncomfortable positions so I can be more comfortable as time goes on.”

Prince has not been efficient with his shooting in the first three games. He said he was unhappy with his performance in Game 1, admitting he tried to do too much, and was better in Game 2 with his defense and play-making. Prince set Collins up for a big slam dunk with a lob pass from the 3-point line as a highlight.

“Kid that wants to be really good,” said assistant Charles Lee, who is coaching the summer league team. “He cares. There is a serious care factor and sometimes you see that when he tries to do too much. It’s coming from a great place. It’s not him being selfish at all. I’ve seen him grow in terms of picking his spots a little bit better and being able to take over in pick-and-roll situations too. I think a lot of times last year he was playing off the ball. Now, he’s expanding his package to be a secondary ball-handler. That will be very nice for us.”

Prince averaged 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16.6 minutes in his 59 regular-season games last season. He played six games on assignment in the NBA G League. In the Hawks’ six playoff games, Prince started each and averaged 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 31.2 minutes.

There are no personal goals for next season – not yet.

“I don’t write my personal goals down until the beginning of the season,” Prince said. “Right now, I’m just trying to focus on being a better player and being a better teammate, picking up my leadership skills and doing those little things. If I do those things right, my goals will be easy to accomplish if I get those things in order first.”