Player Resource: Jae Crowder

David Ramil, Fan Sided (http://fansided.com/2016/02/02/relentless-growth-jae-crowder/)

His social media profile is a case study in contrast, a paradox of 140 characters or less, and Jae Crowder attacks it with a fury normally reserved for opponents. There are no snapshots of the latest vacation or gourmet meal – nothing that falls into the self-serving vacuum that has become the norm. The account may belong to Crowder, the individual, but every post is for his teammates, everything in capitalized letters extolling the latest victory.

It’s an approach that seems perfectly suited for the Boston Celtics, Crowder’s second team in just four NBA seasons. The Celtics have achieved success in spite of themselves, with the team assembling draft picks before beginning their next era of sustained greatness. This current roster has been built on the fly, with only one current player having been on the team for over four years and only one over the age of 30. It lacks a prototypical NBA superstar and, by extension, the de facto leader in the locker room.

Production is by committee, and leadership comes from wherever you can find it. In the case of Crowder, nearly 240 lbs. of restrained passion, it comes by example.

Crowder’s emergence this season, his first full one in Boston, is the latest ironic step of a basketball journey that has struggled to find direction. Despite a NBA pedigree (his father, Corey Crowder, was a professional player both in the U.S. and overseas), he wasn’t a sought-after recruit out of high school. Lacking ideal height and built more like a  bulldog than a greyhound, he spent a season with South Georgia Tech and another with Howard University before earning a scholarship with Marquette University.

With the Golden Eagles, Crowder found a way to blend raw skills with infectious determination, eventually garnering recognition as the 2012 Big East Player of the Year. But when teams evaluated prospects for that year’s NBA Draft, Crowder’s collegiate success was often overlooked. Concerns about his shooting and size offset his potential, and he was selected by Cleveland in the second round before being traded to the Mavericks.

Although initially overjoyed at the chance to earn more playing time, Crowder was confused with the motives of the Celtics’ front office. General manager Danny Ainge’s goal of acquiring draft picks – and possibly tanking the season – was a well-established philosophy. But the hyper-competitive Crowder, along with other newcomer Isaiah Thomas, wanted to make a tangible impact, one that translated to winning.

Head coach Brad Stevens made it clear, according to Crowder, that tanking wasn’t on the table. Winning games was the priority. That was all the 6’6” chiseled forward needed to assure him that he was, finally, in the right place.

The Rondo experiment was an immense failure in Dallas, and the other players included in the deal were sent elsewhere or were simply never a factor. In Boston, Crowder displayed a competitive spirit that, as he explained to ESPN, the young Celtics were lacking.

“I don’t like losing, man. I play this game to win. I never in my life played to lose. I don’t know what that feels like. I don’t play like that. I play to win. I felt like that the locker room here was kind of sulking right when I got here. It was sad to be in a professional locker room like that. I didn’t like it. I just wanted to come in each and every day and put my work in and hopefully make guys feed off my energy and take it from there.”

Once the ultimate goal of winning is achieved, vocals give way to another barrage of loud, celebratory tweets, each one ending with the hash-tagged expression, #ITALLSTARTEDINTHEDRIVEWAY. It’s a reminder of childhood battles, earning your keep and finding a way to claw, scratch or fight to a victory. And while the asphalt battleground has been replaced by the gleaming varnish of Boston’s parquet floor, the attitude that guided Jae Crowder from ignored high-school recruit to NBA stardom, remains intact and as passionate as ever.

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