Hawks’ Prince ‘always’ has confidence in 3-point shot

11:19 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 Sports
David Goldman/AP
Atlanta Hawks' Taurean Prince, right, shoots against Dallas Mavericks' Maximilian Kleber in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Taurean Prince lined up a 3-pointer and hit - nothing.

Air ball.

The Hawks forward took six more long-range attempts and on four hit - nothing but net.

Swish.

Prince made 4 of 7 3-pointers in last week’s home game against the Trail Blazers, despite the inauspicious start, to continue the upward trend of his 3-point shooting in his second NBA season. That Prince was undeterred after the game’s opening shot continued the confidence that his extended range is nothing new.

“Always,” Prince said of his confidence in his 3-point shot.

Prince made 5 of 6 3-pointers in the previous game at the Raptors, tying his season high for long-range makes. The two-game 9-for-13 run snapped a small slide of 4-for-24 over the previous four games.

Prince is shooting 41.8 percent (69-of-165) from 3-point range this season, the 27th best percentage in the NBA. He ranks third on the Hawks in percentage behind Dewayne Dedmon (.483 on 29 attempts) and Luke Babbitt (.441 on 93 attempts). He has been better than noted 3-point shooters Marco Belinelli (.389) and Ersan Ilyasova (.406).

Prince has made at least one 3-pointer in 19 consecutive games, including Tuesday’s game at the Suns.

Prince points out that he’s always been a good 3-point shooter, with a .376 percentage during his 129-game career at Baylor. He said he needed some time to adjust to the longer NBA distance.

However, there was other work needed to get such drastic results. He said assistant coach Ben Sullivan worked on his hand placement on the ball and his balance.

“Two feet up, two feet down,” Prince said. “Last year, if you go back and look at the clips, I was landing on one foot when I shot the ball. It’s all about balance.”

There is a story around the Hawks that coach Mike Budenholzer once told Prince he would rather him shoot 10 3-pointers than seven layups. The two have varying views of the conversation – but each acknowledge it’s a shot the team wants Prince to take.

Prince said Budenholzer has admonished him for passing up shots.

“He’s taken me out in a couple drills in practice for not shooting the ball,” Prince said. “That lets you know how much confidence they have in you.”

But really? More 3-pointers than layups?

“Not those exact words but I can see where he would construe some of the things I’ve said and turn it into that,” Budenholzer said. “But we are definitely on him to shoot more 3’s.”

Prince has had 3-point role models with the Hawks. He said he watched Kyle Korver in his rookie season when the two had lockers next to one another. He has watched Belinelli this season.

This is not all about the 3-pointer. Prince’s ability to drive is an asset, and the Hawks want to continue to see him slash to the basket.

Unlike Korver and Belinelli, the Hawks do not run sets designed to get Prince an open 3-point look. His chances come in the flow of the offense.

“It’s really (Kent Bazemore), Dennis (Schroder) setting me up,” Prince said. “It’s not like I’m coming off screens and hitting Kobe (Byrant) 3-point shots. I’m just spotting up, receiving the ball from my teammates and knocking them down for them.”

Prince shot .324 (33-of-102) from 3-point range last season. His opportunities have increased this season as a full-time starter.

Prince has started all 37 games this season, the only Hawks player to do so with Bazemore. He is averaging 13.1 points, second on the team, and 5.6 rebounds, third on the team.

Against the Raptors last week, Prince had 30 points and 10 rebounds, his third career double-double. Included in the stat line was zero turnovers. He became one of four players this season to have a 30/10 game without a turnover, joining LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. Since the 2004-05 season only Al Horford and Josh Smith (twice) did so for the Hawks.

None of the distinguished company is known for their 3-point shooting.

“He certainly worked on it during the summer,” Budenholzer said. “We rarely, if ever, turn down open 3’s, so I wouldn’t say he had limited opportunities (as a rookie). He didn’t play a lot for the first 50-60 games and then became a starter and was playing very efficiently. Probably not as many, or at the percentage that he’s making 3’s this year, but I think we saw glimpses.”

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