Taurean Prince turning page from injury in fresh start with Wolves

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In April, Taurean Prince had arthroscopic surgery to repair an ankle that had been bothering him last season.

To hear Prince tell it, however, the pain lasted longer than that, all the way back to the 2018-19 season when he was with the Nets.

"A high ankle sprain," Prince said.

Prince thought it wasn't a huge deal and that he could play through the pain. He wanted to help his team get to the playoffs — and he wanted a contract extension for himself.

That sacrifice came as a toll to his health and well-being, but feeling better than he has in a long time, Prince is ready to prove himself again in a contract year with the Wolves after Cleveland traded him for Ricky Rubio.

"It was somewhat of a pleasant surprise," Prince said. "I knew the guys we had over here had improved, so I was excited to be a part of something new. … I like challenges, and this is a great one."

Prince said he had to overcome a pretty significant one in dealing with the ankle the past few years. There were days the 6-7 forward was in excruciating pain just to get up and go to the bathroom, he said.

"Just those mental challenges, getting over that, it's put me in a great position to continue to stay positive through all bad things," Prince said. "I got surgery a few months ago. Started rehab the moment I could walk, and now I'm feeling better."

Why wait then? Why not just have the surgery two seasons ago? Prince said the answer wasn't so easy.

"If it was up to me I would have had the surgery my first year in Brooklyn, but I took a sacrifice," Prince said. "Not only for the organization, but for myself. I was trying to, obviously, get paid. I could have gotten it, again, in Cleveland, but again I sacrificed for the organization and myself to try to get to a playoff game.

"But I don't regret it. I'd do it all over again."

Prince did get paid. He got a two-year deal worth just over $25 million before last season and is in the final year of that deal, making this a contract year.

His scoring average went down in Brooklyn last season, as did his minutes before the Nets dealt him to Cleveland in January. He averaged 9.5 points for the season, his lowest output since his rookie year of 2016-17 with Atlanta. Prince, 27, acknowledged it did while not wanting to sound as if he was using it as an excuse for why he wasn't playing as well.

"Unfortunately, facts, yes it did [have an impact]. But if we're speaking from a more positive mentality, not really," said Prince, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Baylor. "Because at the end of the day I still chose to play, to be on the court. But I did have a high ankle sprain. … and since then I've pretty much haven't been the same physically."

That was until the surgery and rehab.

"I'm feeling healthier than I have in the past two years, and I'm dang near where I was before I got hurt," Prince said.

Coach Chris Finch said last month the Wolves are hopeful they can get Prince back to being the best version of himself and thinks the Wolves' style of play is a fit for Prince, who is a 37% career three-point shooter.

"What we love when we studied him is his best seasons were in systems that trended very similar to the way we play," Finch said.

"I think he'll benefit from a green light mentality like all our guys do."

Defensively, Prince can guard multiple positions, and with his ankle feeling better, he shouldn't have that as a hindrance like he has in recent years.

"Going from position to position, [bigger] size to smaller guys, It's not really a difficult thing for me to do ..." Prince said. "I plan on being able to do all that at a high level. A higher level than I've shown in the past two seasons."

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