Celtics

Crowder saw the writing on the wall with Celtics

Crowder saw the writing on the wall with Celtics

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum in June, a wing forward who the franchise envisions growing along with second-year wing Jaylen Brown.
 
They signed Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million max contract just a couple weeks later, a string of moves that left Jae Crowder unsure of what his role (if any) with the franchise was going forward.
 
“There was some concern because you have a lot of wing players stacked up,” Crowder admitted. “And I made it clear to the organization that I was concerned about it and wanted some direction. They showed me what they wanted to do and I respected it.”
 
Crowder was part of the four-player trade which sent himself, along with Isaiah Thomas and Ante Zizic, to Cleveland with the Celtics getting Kyrie Irving in return.
 
While most of the focus on the trade centered around the Thomas-Irving component of the deal, the addition of Crowder gives the Cavaliers a dimension at both ends of the floor that they need as they set their sights on continuing as the team to beat in the East.
 
“His on-court, off-court plus-minus is at a high level,” said Cavs general manager Koby Altman. “He contributes to winning at an extremely high level. That’s why we value him to that extent. He also brings a tough, gritty attitude defensively, [he'll] pick up the best player. He’s a core piece to this Cavaliers team going forward.”

MORE ON THE TRADE:

According to NBA.com/stats, Crowder’s net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) last season was +7.8, second only to Amir Johnson, (the ex-Celtic now with the Philadelphia 76ers) whose net rating was 8.0.
 
Even more telling was what happened when Crowder was not on the floor.
 
The Celtics had a net rating of -3.9, which was the largest drop off by any Celtic last season when they were on the bench. Those are the kind of numbers that speak to just how valuable Crowder was at both ends of the floor last season.
 
Crowder’s value can be seen in many ways, with his toughness often standing out above all else.  No time was it more on display than Aug. 22, the day he was traded, which also coincided with the death of his mother.
 
I asked Crowder about that day at his Cavaliers' introductory press conference on Thursday that also included Thomas and Zizic.
 
“There was a lot going on that day, obviously,” Crowder said. “The good thing about the whole ordeal was I was able to whisper it to my mom (Helen Thompson, 51) before she passed. I was with her. I just told her, 'We're going to Cleveland.' Five minutes later, she passed."
 
The pain of losing his mother will not subside anytime soon, but Crowder has shown throughout his career a resiliency to weather whatever storms come his way.
 
And while his playing time will likely take a dip in Cleveland, Crowder seems in a better place not only to play steady minutes with the Cavs but compete for the ultimate prize – an NBA title.
 
“That day [of the trade] was tough, but it was a good day for myself, for my basketball career, to move on to an organization like this, like the Cleveland Cavaliers, to put myself in a position to play for it all,” Crowder said. “I couldn't ask myself for nothing else. I was thankful for Boston, for everything they've done for me, and for trading me to a team like this. I was thankful for the opportunity. But that day was pretty wild."
 
Crowder, a former second-round pick from Marquette entering his sixth NBA season, averaged career highs in several categories last season with the Celtics, including minutes played (32.4), field- goal percentage (.463), 3-point percentage (.398), rebounds (5.8) and assists (2.2).

Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

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Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

After arriving in Boston and spending some time with his new teammates, Kyrie Irving felt good about this group doing big things this season. 

But when asked about the experience thus far being what he thought it would be, Irving responded, “It’s probably exceeded that.”

He’s not alone. 

Few would have envisioned the Celtics (15-2) would have the best record in the NBA at this point, let alone be riding a 15-game winning streak which ranks as the fifth-best winning streak in franchise history. 

Irving and his Celtics teammates will try and keep it going tonight when they take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Irving’s ability to mesh with his teammates and still find success was among the many questions out there when the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the blockbuster trade this offseason. 

Blending in has not been an issue for Irving, bolstered by the reality that his game stands out. 

We saw that in Boston’s 110-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks, which was a game in which Irving had 30 points on an insanely efficient 10-for-12 shooting night. 

There were many factors that went into Irving’s strong night against the Hawks, but he said it really came down to one thing above all else.

“I just made some damn shots for once,” Irving quipped. “That right there kind of made it seem better than I actually been shooting over the start of the season.  It would also contribute to being able to be in the right spots and guys being selfless in their approach driving to the basket or getting into the paint. It’s tell-tale sign of all of us getting more comfortable.”

Here are five below-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on as the Boston Celtics face the Dallas Mavericks, with Boston gunning for its 16th straight win. 

BROWN’S POSITIVE PLAY

Jaylen Brown has been on a bit of an offensive tear of late, the last being a career-high 27-point performance in Boston’s win over Atlanta. But even more telling is how well things seem to flow with him on the floor. Brown’s plus/minus this season is +146 which is tops among all players in the Eastern Conference. His closest competition in the East? That would teammate Al Horford whose plus/minus this season is +143. In addition, Horford has had a positive plus/minus in every game this season. 

YOGI FERRELL

You can count Yogi Ferrell among the ones that got away from Brad Stevens when he was coaching at Butler. Ferrell, who played at Indiana, was a player on Stevens’ radar when he was coaching at Butler. “I recruited Yogi, unsuccessfully,” Stevens told reporters in Dallas. While Ferrell came on strong as an undrafted free agent with the Mavericks last season, Stevens said there’s nothing about Ferrell’s game now that he didn’t see when he tried to woo him to Butler. “He would have been awfully good at Butler,” Stevens said.

HOMECOMING

While Marcus Smart grew up in Flower Mound, Texas (less than an hour from Dallas), tonight’s game is a homecoming of sorts for another Celtics player – Semi Ojeleye. The 6-foot-7 forward played at SMU which is located in Dallas. A second-round pick by Boston in last June’s NBA draft, Ojeleye has been among the many surprise performers for the Celtics this season. “We knew he could be a versatile defender,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Probably has exceeded our expectations in that regard with his ability to guard one (point guard) through five (center) at certain times. And he’s been pretty consistent shooting the ball. Right now, embracing that kind of 3-and-D role is what he has to do and he’s done it well.”

DEEP DRAFT CLASS

The Boston Celtics struck gold by drafting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. But as you look at the teams that had lottery picks in last June’s NBA draft, few come away feeling disappointed or discouraged by the player selected. The Dallas Mavericks are among the teams pleased with their first-round pick, Dennis Smith Jr. who was selected with the ninth overall pick. He has emerged as one of the top rookies this year, averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. And yes, he was a player that was on the Celtics’ radar leading up to last June’s draft. “We had Dennis in and he was really impressive,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a guy that’s going to have a great career and he’s got good veteran players around him to help kick it off.”

DIRK NOWITZKI

The numbers aren’t anywhere close to what we’ve seen for the bulk of Dirk Nowitzki’s illustrious career that’s now in Year 20. But there is a demeanor about him that seems to be at peace with where he’s at basketball-wise, even if the wins aren’t nearly as plentiful as he’s accustomed to. “I appreciate his game a ton,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Just watching him talk on the court, cheer on the bench, sit at the scorer’s table with a smile on his face. You can’t play this long and be this good this long if you don’t’ love it. Everybody says they love it, but he’s got a different level of passion. You can feel it, you can see it. You root for guys like him to have success.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE