MINNEAPOLIS – Henry Ellenson’s second season in the NBA has been encouraging. It’s also been an exercise in patience.
The 6-foot-11 forward and Rice Lake native has been in and out of the Detroit Pistons rotation. And at the moment, he’s out.
“I’ve just got to stay ready, stay focused,” Ellenson said prior to Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “The team’s been playing well. From that standpoint, it’s good that we’ve been winning. Personally, for me, I’ve just got to be ready for my chances.”
Sunday’s 100-97 victory at Target Center was the eighth consecutive game in which Ellenson has not played. That’s life for young players in the NBA. He’s still ahead of his pace from his rookie season in which he played in 19 total games and averaged 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds. This season, he’s played in five of the Pistons’ first 16 games, averaging 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds.
But he’s hungry for more.
And that appetite only grew when he started the season in the rotation and appeared in four of the first six games. That included a 21-minute outing against the Timberwolves in which he scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in a 122-101 victory Oct. 25 in Detroit. He played 16 minutes and scored 13 points in a season-opening 102-90 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Oct. 18.
But since then veteran Anthony Tolliver, with his mix of perimeter shooting and defense, has seized the backup power forward minutes. And Ellenson has been relegated to spectator status as the Pistons (11-5) have climbed to first place in the Central Division.
“That’s been the toughest thing with our team so far, because Henry has played a lot better,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “When he got opportunities early in the year, he played really well. But then Anthony Tolliver had really given our team a lift coming off the bench – particularly defensively – in a lot of games. So he took Henry’s place in the rotation. No fault of Henry’s. Just a need of ours.”
Ellenson’s last court time was a nine-minute cameo in a 113-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 31 in Los Angeles. He scored three points in that one.
He didn’t get to check into the game Sunday, but he was excited to see yet another healthy Rice Lake cheering section. There wasn’t a pep land like last season, but there was plenty of blue and red in the concourse before tipoff. And all those Rice Lake-based Pistons fans got to see Detroit snap a two-game skid with a hard-fought win.
“It’s going to be a lot,” Ellenson said. “I’m excited. I’m not sure if it’s going to be more than last year or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. I’m excited about tonight.”
And in the meantime, he’s going to stay ready for when his name is called. Van Gundy and the Pistons organization remain bullish on his long-term potential. He’ll get another shot soon enough.
“Coach says it’s going to take everyone on this team this year,” Ellenson said. “I think at different times, different guys have stepped up. I was able to get in there and do some good things right away. But I’ve just got to stay ready for when my next moment is.”