Jae Crowder has been an afterthought for almost his entire basketball career.
There wasn’t much interest in him from top colleges coming out of high school so he wound up at South Georgia Technical College. He transferred to Howard Community College in Big Spring, Texas a year later before finally getting a shot at Marquette. Crowder became a key bench player in his first year for the Golden Eagles – helping them reach the Sweet Sixteen – and then he exploded a year later to take home Big East Player of the Year honors.
But nobody saw the gritty small forward as a first round pick even after that great senior campaign at Marquette. In fact, nobody really wanted the pick used on Crowder at all. The New Orleans Hornets originally traded the 2012 second round pick that eventually became Crowder all the way back in 2009 so they could get Marcus Thornton from the Miami Heat. That pick was traded again one year later to the Cleveland Cavaliers for LeBron James after “The Decision” in order to receive a trade exception and fit their new superstar under the salary cap.
The Cavaliers used that pick – the 34th overall selection of the 2012 NBA Draft – to take Crowder but he would up going to the Dallas Mavericks in a draft night deal that helped Cleveland move up in the first round to get Tyler Zeller.
Dallas seemed like a good place for Crowder at first. He averaged 17.3 minutes per game as a rookie and even started 16 games. That’s more than any second round pick can hope for, but his playing time decreased in year two and by his third season in the league, Crowder was averaging just 10.6 minutes per game before getting thrown in the back end of the Rajon Rondo trade.
Crowder seemed like the smallest piece in that deal, tossed in only for cap reasons. Boston also got a 2016 first round pick – which has since become Guerschon Yabusele – Jameer Nelson and Brandon Wright. Outside of that first round pick, the big haul was supposed to be Wright, a 6’10” center who was seen as one of the better rim protectors in the league while also shooting an incredible 74.8% from the floor at the time. While you couldn’t expect Nelson to factor much into the future of the club, at least you could see him taking Rondo’s spot and giving the Celtics solid minutes while also helping mentor then rookie Marcus Smart.
But all of that quickly changed as Nelson got crunched out of the rotation so Evan Turner could play a little point guard while Wright never established himself in the Celtics log jammed frontcourt, getting stuck behind Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller. Tuner moving to point guard gave Crowder a window to play some small forward after Jeff Green was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies just a few weeks later, which opened up even more minutes in the rotation.
While Crowder was easily the last guy from that trade who you thought would make an impact, it always seems like he knew that he could become a huge piece of the Celtics future from the very start. Go back and watch the introductory press conference for the three guys when they got in from Dallas, the first thing Crowder starts talking about is playoffs.
Rondo was traded on the afternoon of a game and the new players showed up in time to watch that night, but they didn’t play. Watching from the locker room, the newbies were treated to a great team win. All five starters – Avery Bradley, Turner, Green, Sullinger and Zeller – scored in double-figures while Olynyk led the team outright with 21 points off the bench in a 114-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Right after talking about making the playoffs with this underdog group, the second thing that Crowder started talking about was how impressed he was with the team. He seemed like he wanted to be here more than the guys he shared the podium with, and he’s the one who stuck around against all odds.
After proving to a big piece of a team that actually did make the playoffs that first season, Ainge rewarded Crowder with a five year contract. It’s really a cool story when you think about it. The guy who played at three different colleges, was a seemingly unwanted second round pick despite being Player of the Year in a major conference and kept losing playing time each year with his first NBA club now finally had a place to call home.
Fast forward to the present and it seems like trading Crowder is the right move. If the reports that Ainge has the ability to trade for and extend Paul George should the team sign Gordon Hayward, you almost have to move him. Those two All-Stars along with young guys such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum make keeping Crowder foolish.
This doesn’t change the fact that he was perfect for the Celtics over his two and a half years with the team. This is something that a lot of idiots need to realize.
So he did complain when fans cheered for Hayward last season and he also didn’t like his own fans rooting for a guy like Devin Booker to reach 70 points at the TD Garden last year, even though he was making that chase with the game well out of hand. He’s made many indications that he doesn’t really like Celtic fans over the years, but things like this are probably why.
All of those tweets were “liked” on Twitter by Crowder himself, who has been on the social media site since 2010 but has only liked 27 total tweets over that stretch.
Why hate on a guy who first brought a winning attitude to the Brad Stevens-era? Why hate on the guy who does everything on both ends of the floor, plays multiple positions and is an all around good player? Do you realize how stupid these “fans” sound.
Trading Jae Crowder is 100% the right move if both George and Hayward are both coming, but if nobody else will say this then I will; thank you. You were absolutely everything this franchise needed in a gritty underdog type when you came in if this is the end, the team is so much better off today then it was on December 19, 2014.