No matter how the Celtics players tried to keep the days leading up to the trade deadline as nothing more than business as usual, they knew all too well that the front office was looking to make improvements.
The greatest need for the Celtics appeared to be on the boards, a place where they were routinely pushed around and to the side by most foes.
Well, the Celtics found that upgrade they were looking for on the boards...and his name is Jae Crowder.
Boston has been a noticeably better rebounding team since the All-Star break and the play of Crowder on the boards has had a lot to do with it.
His work on the boards Friday in a 98-95 win at Brooklyn was critical to the Celtics’ victory, with Crowder tallying his seventh double-double of the season with season-highs scoring (24) and rebounding (12).
At the All-Star break, Crowder was well aware that the Celtics were looking into the possibility of adding a player whose strength was rebounding.
“I took it upon myself to be a little more aware of the situation, try to help as much as possible,” he told reporters following Friday’s win.
Prior break, Crowder averaged 5.7 rebounds while the Celtics as a team ranked 27th in rebounding percentage (.479).
Since the break, his rebounding average is up to 7.7 per game and the Celtics’ rebounding percentage has increased to .499, which ranks 15th in the league in that span.
“I knew I could get in and get a few more rebounds when I looked back, at All-Star break,” Crowder said. “I’m just trying to be more aware of the situation and help the bigs a little bit, me being at the four [power forward] spot a lot.”
Crowder’s improved rebounding offers yet another element of his game that has been beneficial to the Celtics (44-25), who have the second-best record in the East behind Cleveland, which has a two-game lead.
It also serves as yet another way in which Crowder’s value to the Celtics continues to increase over time.
Marcus Smart and rookie Jaylen Brown had a heated exchange of words in the 117-104 win over Minnesota on Wednesday, with the war of words spilling over on to the bench area, where Crowder stepped in between the two.
Inside the locker room, which was closed to the media longer than usual, Crowder made a point of letting both players air whatever it is they had to say right there as to not let it fester.
“We’re moving on,” Crowder said. “Because it happens all the time. It just doesn’t get blown up. You guys don’t see it as much, but it is what it is. We just move on to the next play.”
And it’s that kind of leadership that has not only contributed to the Celtics being one of the top teams in the NBA this season, but also created an environment where differences are worked out, because at the end of the day, all involved want the same thing – to keep on winning.
And after what has been a rocky start at times for the Celtics, Crowder is helping lead the charge as the Celtics try and rebound – literally – from a not-so-great start to what they hope will be a memorable postseason finish.