DETROIT – There were wide eyes all around as the public saw the Pistons for the first time at Little Caesars Arena – and that’s if we’re just talking about the Pistons, most of whom set foot inside their gleaming new home for the first time Tuesday evening.
“It’s awesome – beautiful,” Tobias Harris said after the Pistons held their Meet the Team event, attended by 7,800 fans that saw Stan Van Gundy walk them through a few basic plays, Andre Drummond emcee an impromptu team dance contest and the Pistons launch half-court shots. “Excited to get on the floor with my teammates out there. Overall, it’s top of the line. We’re excited.”
Jon Leuer had the same first-word response and talked about his anticipation for Wednesday’s preseason opener against Charlotte.
“It’s awesome. You can tell it’s a start-of-the-art facility,” he said. “I’m excited to have a chance to see what it looks like tomorrow night on a game night. But the fans tonight, it was really good. For an event like this to have that many fans here, the energy in the building was great.”
Anthony Tolliver spent last season away from the Pistons after playing 1½ seasons with them at The Palace and Tolliver’s Sacramento Kings last year opened another new arena, Golden 1 Center.
“It’s beautiful. It’s really well done,” he said. “Obviously, when you have a brand new arena there’s always going to be some kinks you’ve got to work out. I don’t know how we’re going to get in or out of here right now, but eventually we’ll get all that stuff figured out. But it’s beautiful.”
Tolliver spoke while standing before a canvas mural of himself with each of the 16 Pistons, including Luis Montero and Dwight Buycks on two-way contracts, represented in the hallway leading to their spacious locker room. There was some concern that the Pistons would feel under-represented in an arena originally conceived only for the hockey Red Wings, but players dispelled those ideas.
“They’ve told us it’s not finished – more Pistons stuff going up – but they’ve got some nice portraits,” Harris said. “These are really nice. The locker room is really nicely set up. So, hey, it’s cool with me. I love it.”
The arena’s construction, with its steep upper level, gives a close-in feel that players expect to create a noisy environment and eventually a significant home-court edge.
“It has a hockey rink build to it and I think that’s cool,” said Leuer, a native of hockey-crazed Minnesota. “Not a lot of NBA arenas have that feel. I think with the fans kind of right on top of you like that, it could make for a good home-court advantage.”
“Just being on the court, you could see the type of difference there is,” Harris said. “You just look up and imagine a sold-out house and playoffs. That’s what we’ve got to reach for to get to, but it’s awesome.”
Tolliver was struck by the fact that while the arena will seat 20,000 for Pistons games, it feels more intimate.
“That’s crazy it has that many seats in here. I think if it gets filled up, it’s going to feel really, really, really crazy in here and I think that we’ll be able to feed off that energy really well.”