Crowder: 'These next two games are critical for me'

Crowder: 'These next two games are critical for me'

BOSTON – If you go solely by the box scores, Jae Crowder’s play has been about the same as it was prior to a high right ankle sprain injury that sidelined him for eight games.

But upon closer inspection, the 6-foot-6 forward looks at times a half step slow on close-outs, with an occasional Celtics turnover coming about when he’s looking to dive to the basket and a teammate thinks he’s going to pop out for a jumper.

But with each passing game, Crowder is indeed getting closer to the form he displayed earlier. And that’s a good thing for the Celtics who will need strong play from Crowder if they are to have the kind of postseason success they are aiming for.

Crowder acknowledged he's still working his way towards getting back to where he was health-wise prior to the March 11 injury, but definitely feels he's making progress. 

“I feel pretty good,” Crowder told reporters after Boston’s 118-107 loss to Atlanta on Saturday. “I’m a little tired of course. I feel I’m getting better; my wind is getting better.”

One of the challenges for both Crowder and the Celtics has been getting him back to the conditioning level he was at prior to the March 11 injury against Houston.

Because of his versatility and willingness to defend all perimeter positions as well as some bigs like Atlanta’s Al Horford, it takes a tremendous amount of conditioning to contend with so many different players with various skillsets and degrees of athleticism.

While his minutes since returning are comparable to what he logged prior to the injury, the Celtics have had to divvy them up differently to compensate for his conditioning issues. And let’s be clear. The issue isn’t that Crowder’s conditioning is bad, but rather it’s not where it has to be in order for him to be a high impact performer. And that lack of conditioning has everything to do with the nature of his injury didn’t afford him to do much conditioning during the eight consecutive games he missed.

That’s why his play against the Hawks was one of the more encouraging performances since his return. 

It wasn’t so much that he scored 16 points (he’s had better scoring games since returning to the lineup), but he got a lot of those points with the kind of basketball moves we’ve seen him execute effectively when he was healthy.

For a Celtics team just days away from the start of the playoffs, having their best two-way player looking and playing the way he’s used to, is very encouraging. That’s why at a time when many teams are looking at ways to cut back their core guy’s minutes on the eve of the playoffs, Crowder’s actually trying to play as many minutes as possible down the stretch of the regular season.

“I’m able to play in longer spurts,” Crowder said. “These next two games are critical for me.”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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