DETROIT – As he almost always does, Timberwolves veteran Jamal Crawford was out early shooting before Wednesday’s game at Detroit’s newly opened Little Caesars Arena.
Every arena new or old is different and after 18 years in the league, Crawford has a discerning eye as far as lighting and backgrounds go.
He loves shooting in Toronto and knows another arena or two (or three) for which his shooting eye just doesn’t fit.
“There’s one place even more so than the rest of them, but they’ll remain nameless,” Crawford said. “I’m not going to kill them.”
Crawford visited the Pistons’ former Palace of Auburn Hills his first 17 seasons and Wednesday got his first look at the Pistons’ new home in a downtown Detroit arena built for the NHL’s Red Wings.
“It just felt like another nice arena,” Crawford said before he went 3-for-12 from the field Wednesday in a 122-101 lopsided loss.
He was fond of the Palace — “I had some good games there and just the history behind it” — but never felt about it like he does Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
“I’ve had some really good shooting games there, and I felt like I was going to have those when I was in the layup line,” Crawford said. “I don’t know what it is about that place, but it’s something. My first 50-point game came there. Then I almost had another 50-point game there. It just feels to me like a shooter’s arena.”
Three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler missed his second consecutive game because of an upper respiratory infection.
“He’s feeling better today, but not well enough to play,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
Kansas University will retire Wolves veteran Cole Aldrich’s jersey during a Feb. 17 game against West Virginia at historic Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s really cool,” said Aldrich, a member of the Jayhawks’ 2008 NCAA title team. “I haven’t quite figured out how to put it in words because when I went to school, you look up and see Hinrich, Collison, LaFrentz, Jo Jo White, all those guys and you’re just another guy. When you come through and you’re fortunate to have the career I had there, it’s a huge honor.”
Wednesday was the second anniversary of former Wolves coach/president of basketball operations Flip Saunders’ death at age 60. He coached the Pistons as well in his NBA career.
“He was just one of the truly enjoyable people in our business, a really, really good guy,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy, whose brother Jeff was one of Saunders’ close friends. “A very good basketball coach, but a guy who was universally liked and respected throughout the league and that’s not an easy thing.
“You get into rivalries and things like that, you usually have some people who can’t stand you or at least a handful of them. But with Flip I never heard a bad thing from anybody and that’s hard to do in this business.”
Orono’s Jon Leuer and Rice Lake, Wisconsin’s Henry Ellenson were among the first reserves off the Pistons bench. Van Gundy said before Wednesday’s tilt he likes Ellenson’s game a lot but just hasn’t been able to find consistent playing time for the second-year player.
Ellenson played 21 minutes Wednesday, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds, including a crowd-pleasing dunk in Nemanja Bjelica’s face in the fourth quarter.
“He’s going to be a good player,” Van Gundy said. “I’m happy with everything he’s done.”
Thibodeau remembering Saunders: “We’re fortunate we have his son Ryan working for us and his daughter Rachel works for us and his wife Debbie comes to all the games, so we feel like he’s still part of us. We miss him, but his legacy lives on.”