When he made the move years ago, Jamal Crawford knew he likely was giving up some money. He knew he would be flying lower on the radar. But he wanted to win.
Crawford was well into his career, had played a decade in the NBA, when he accepted the transition to sixth man while with Atlanta for the 2010-11 season. Since then he has become the only three-time winner of the NBA’s sixth man of the year award.
In Detroit the other night he reached an impressive milestone, becoming just the second player in the past 35 years to score 10,000 points off the bench. He reached that number exactly against the Pistons. After Friday’s victory, Crawford has 10,005 points off the bench, 8,140 points as a starter and zero regrets.
“At the core of who I am, I’m just a hooper,’’ Crawford said after Wolves practice Saturday. “I don’t care if I start or come off the bench. I just want to win.’’
The only other player to score more than 10,000 off the bench was Dell Curry, Stephen’s father. He scored 11,147.
Safe to say Crawford didn’t expect all of this when he made the switch.
“I was tired of losing,’’ he said. “I was averaging 20 points, but I’d never been to the playoffs.”
No. But once he made the switch, he went to the playoffs in seven of eight seasons.
“It’s pretty amazing,’’ Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “To play as long as he has [Crawford is 37] is remarkable in itself. He’s been through everything. He’s gotten past injuries, always finds a way to rise above whatever is in front of him.’’
When thinking of great sixth men, sometimes it feels like you have to go back in time. Kevin McHale, in his early days in Boston. Detroit’s Vinnie Johnson. It’s probably not a stretch to say Crawford is the best in the league at the job in the past decade.
“It’s an important role, it really is,’’ Thibodeau said. “Look at what Andre Iguodala has contributed to Golden State. Those guys are appreciated by their teammates. Everyone recognizes their value. A lot of times you have guys who don’t get recognized in the boxscore, but it’s so important to winning. Setting screens, sprinting back in defensive transition. If a guys does that, it helps you win.’’
Free but not easy
Thibodeau said he and his staff will do whatever it takes to get Andrew Wiggins back on track from the free throw line.
Through six games Wiggins, a career 75.5-percent free throw shooter, is 22-for-41 (54 percent) from the line.
“He started slowly last year, and he ended up shooting great,’’ Thibodeau said of Wiggins, who shot 76.0 percent on free throws as a rookie, 76.1 in his second season and 76.0 against last season. “You just have to be consistent with the way he’s shooting it.’’
Thibodeau said the team has been taping his free throws and will work with him on it. But, at the same time, Thibodeau doesn’t want Wiggins to overthink it, either.
“We’ll film everything, and then we’ll take a look at it, talk to him,’’ Thibodeau said.
OKC flight hit by birds
Delta Air Lines says a charter flight carrying the Oklahoma City Thunder from Minneapolis to Chicago apparently encountered a bird early Saturday when it was landing, causing damage that prompted some players to post photos on social media showing the caved-in nose of the plane.
Carmelo Anthony, Josh Huestis and Steven Adams all posted photos of the plane shortly after it landed around 12:45 a.m.
Anthony wrote on Instagram, “What possibly could we have hit in the SKY at this time of night? Everyone is Safe, Though.”
Adams’ Twitter post said, “We had a rough flight to say the least.”
Huestis wrote on Twitter, “I guess we hit something? 30,000 feet up ...”
Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Elizabeth Wolf said maintenance was evaluating the situation and that the damage likely was caused by a collision with a bird.
She said the Boeing 757-200 landed safely without incident at Chicago’s Midway International Airport.
The Thunder lost to the Wolves 119-116 on Friday night.
Moves by Iowa Wolves
The Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s G League affiliate in Des Moines, waived Traevon Jackson and Lamont Mack. Jackson averaged 5.4 points in 25 games for Iowa last season. Mack was signed as a local tryout player Oct. 20.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.