Brad Stevens and Jae Crowder cemented their places in the NBA together, and the head coach was quick to praise the former Celtics forward Wednesday night.
“I just think Jae’s a winner,” Stevens said. “He impacts winning everywhere he’s been. I don’t know how many guys have been in the number of places that he’s played, and every one of them goes to the playoffs, regardless of what the preseason expectations are.”
Crowder, who is in his eighth season and playing for his fifth team, finished with three points, six rebounds, and a steal in 18 minutes of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 119-95 loss to the Celtics. He’s played and started in 40 games this year and has averaged 10.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 29.9 minutes per game, serving as a leader and steady presence for a young team brimming with potential.
On the court at TD Garden, Crowder high-fived a fan after hitting a corner 3 and gave another fan a thumbs-up when that fan encouraged him to come to Boston. Off it, he greeted members of the media with a grin and handshakes, asking them how they had been and how their families were. Crowder said after the game that coming back is special every time and never gets old.
“It’s always good to feel the love from the fans and see familiar faces,” said Crowder, who played in Boston from 2014-2017. “It’s always good coming back here.”
Here’s what he said about his time with the Celtics, Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, this Celtics team, his current squad, and more.
He remembers “kicking people’s ass” as underdogs with the Celtics.
When asked what stands out about his time in Boston, Crowder provides a brief yet definitive response.
“Pretty much that we was just underdogs and we was kicking people’s ass,” he said. “Point blank, period.”
He said he learned during his time here that having a positive locker room environment goes a long way in producing an effective on-court product. Crowder said he was fortunate enough to have such a positive experience in Boston, and he’s getting similar vibes with the Grizzlies now.
“I’ll never forget it, and I take that everywhere I go,” he said. “I try to have that identity with me and bring that on any team.”
He also discussed his versatility with the Celtics, noting that he was looking to imitate Draymond Green at the time. Now, Crowder said, the league has evolved, and he still views himself as the position-less player he always has been.
Crowder said the Celtics currently have a lot of players that pride themselves on thriving in a variety of situations like he does. Stevens credited Crowder for being one of the first guys he coached in the NBA who could play a number of different positions and be comfortable in many roles.
“I’ve always really appreciated Jae, and it’s been fun to watch from afar since he’s left,” Stevens said. “He’s not a fun guy to prepare to play against.”
A fan just yelled to Jae Crowder, "Hey, Crowder! Come back to Boston!" And he turned around quickly and gave the fan a thumbs up.
— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) January 23, 2020
He shouted out Brad Stevens and Isaiah Thomas.
Crowder said Stevens has “always been a player’s coach,” from the time he came into the league until now.
“To see him implement the way he wants to play, with so many weapons, tonight, was beautiful to see them buying in to what he’s preaching,” Crowder said. “It’s so fun to watch. Obviously he has a different style of play from different coaches. He likes the ball movement, he likes a team camaraderie type of game.”
Crowder noted that he still has ties to his Celtics teams, including with Thomas. He said they text periodically and see each other once or twice a summer when they can.
“That’s my guy,” Crowder told Boston.com. “Our relationship will always be like what it is. It’ll be a great friendship, brotherhood, something we cherish forever.”
He thinks the Celtics are “coming together beautifully.”
Crowder also complimented this current Celtics team Wednesday night, crediting Stevens for doing “a hell of a job.” He said everybody is a threat on the court, noting that the Celtics are moving the ball well even though they have so many weapons. It’s not sticking, and it’s tough to guard because there’s no guessing where it will end up.
“I think it’s coming together beautifully,” Crowder said. “It’s a tough team. Obviously you see what they did to one of the best teams in the league, L.A. They’re a tough team to beat, especially on their home court. They played well tonight.”
He said the Celtics seem connected on the floor and look like they’re having fun. The Celtics shot over 50.6 percent from the floor, 43.8 percent from 3, and assisted on 32 of 45 baskets against the Grizzlies, and their efficiency caught Crowder’s eye.
“All guys are touching the ball, all guys are moving it, turning down good shots for great ones,” Crowder said. “When you see that as a team, you’ve got a good thing going.”
Jae Crowder gets a nice ovation from the crowd pic.twitter.com/ad1FLQgCWY
— Trevor Hass (@TrevorHass) January 23, 2020
He’s served as a leader for a young, talented Grizzlies squad.
When Grayson Allen came into the NBA as a rookie last year, he turned to Crowder for advice and guidance. Just because he’s a second-year player now, Allen made it clear that role hasn’t diminished.
“I was kind of his rook last year, so I was either working out with him a lot before or after practice,” Allen said. “He was always on me. He’s been a good fit for me to have in my first two years in the league.”
Allen said Crowder is always one to speak up when he has to and lead both by example and vocally. He said he never plays for himself and always adds to winning,
“He pretty much just set an example for me of what a guy who’s been in this league for a good amount of time, what your work day to day looks like,” Allen said.
Crowder has also taken rookie phenom Ja Morant under his wing. He said he knew Morant was special the moment Morant’s Murray State team upset the team he used to play for, Marquette, in the NCAA Tournament.
Once he got to know him, his admiration grew even more. He said Morant can be the league’s Most Valuable Player one day. As for the Grizzlies, they’ve shown some signs, and Crowder likes the way they’ve regrouped and stayed together after setbacks.
“It’s up and down like tonight,” Crowder said. “It’s a down moment, but you’ve got to come back with a free head and use it as a learning experience.”