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Despite loss to Knicks, Jae Crowder proves he’s more valuable to Celtics than Carmelo Anthony could ever be 01.18.17 at 9:53 pm ET
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Jae Crowder was one of the few bright spots in the Celtics' loss Wednesday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder was one of the few bright spots in the Celtics’ loss Wednesday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

When Phil Jackson divulged over the summer that his biggest regret as president of the Knicks was not taking Jae Crowder when he had the opportunity to do so, it was as intriguing as it was dumbfounding.

With the Knicks now 43 games into their season — 19-24 after their 117-106 win against the Celtics on Wednesday — it’s become more clear why.

Part of the concern, a legitimate one at that, was his reluctance to make a move for Crowder because he would sit behind Carmelo Anthony. He instead took a second-round pick the Mavs owed the Celtics and turned it into Cleanthony Early, a decision in hindsight that would make even the biggest optimist cringe.

Despite the Celtics losing, Wednesday night proved a clear indication as to why the indecision was not only so frustrating for Jackson, but also why Crowder is so valuable to the Celtics.

Anthony, currently knee-deep in conflict with Jackson, put together 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting on Wednesday. He added four rebounds and three assists. Crowder, on the other hand dropped 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and an assist.

(For a complete recap, click here)

And while it’s nonsense to look at one game as a basis comparison, the differences amongst the two has been lurking all season.

As Crowder helped take control of the game, the difference between him and Anthony became borderline palpable as they guarded one another. Crowder, ever intense, yet composed, guarded Anthony, who looked apathetic and nonexistent on the floor, hardly ever running more than a few steps at a time. A hard fall from the presence he used to own on the floor.

The 32-year-old Anthony, once a top player in the league, was essentially nonexistent on both sides of the ball, and has been visibly on the decline for the majority of the season. And while his supporting cast hasn’t exactly been shining around him, a team that boasts Anthony, Joakim Noah, Derek Rose and Kristaps Porzingis is vastly underperforming from where they should be.

This is where Crowder comes back into play. New York Post writer Marc Berman toyed with the idea of a Melo to Boston trade. Melo and $3 million to the Celtics, with the Knicks getting Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and the Celtics’ 2018 first round pick.

The idea of such a deal nestled the line of lunacy before the Knicks even took the TD Garden floor. But Wednesday was as much validation as necessary for the 26-year-old Crowder to stay around. While there is no such thing as untouchable, Crowder, along with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford are about as untouchable as they get — especially with the core they’ve established.

The Celtics may be one more piece or “star” away from being true contenders, but Melo isn’t that piece. Especially not at the expense of Crowder.

As frequent of a target as Anthony has been to the Celtics every time he was being shopped around or an impending free agent, it’s tough to resist the idea of him in green. But given his current on and off the court state, it’s become clear as ever that wherever he ends up, it shouldn’t be Boston.

Crowder is probably the biggest noisemaker off the court, but a tweet chastising fans for cheering an opposing player pales in comparison to locker room tirades.

The Celtics have made their calling card this season a blue collar and chemistry-heavy type of play. They aren’t going to match up with the top teams in the East from a skills perspective, but the way they can grind has kept them in the conversation as one of the East’s toughest teams. The addition of Anthony or subtraction of Crowder — or both — would ruin that.

Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Jae Crowder,
John Wall brushes off postgame incident with Jae Crowder as ‘just some altercation’ 01.12.17 at 12:48 am ET
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Jan 11, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) is guarded by Washington Wizards forward / center Jason Smith (14) during the third quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) is guarded by Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) during the third quarter at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

On a night that Floyd Mayweather was courtside, it was only appropriate that Wednesday’s Celtics-Wizards game ended with a fight. 

As the players were filing off the court in the wake of Boston’s 117-108 win, the banged up John Wall crossed paths with Jae Crowder. The Celtics forward started talking to Wall, who took exception. Crowder pointed his finger in Wall’s face and the two teams started pushing and shoving, a melee that spilled into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms behind the Wizards bench. 

“Just some altercation,” Wall said when asked about it. “We knew there was going to be some trash talking.  We knew it was going to be a physical game. That’s all it was. Just a little trash talking and a physical game.

“My right pinky is messed up and my left wrist is swollen.  I’ll probably get an X-Ray and see what’s wrong with it.  I knew it was hurting.  I knew it was painful before the game.  It was a big game for us.  I just tried to come out and play through it and the results came out how it was.”

Brad Stevens said he didn’t see it but heard about it and reminded his players what was expected in terms of behavior.  

“I heard what was going on in the tunnel. All I did was walk out. There were only two guys that were walking in from the court from our team, and I just said, ‘Get in the locker room.’ And then I talked to the team about what we represent and that’s it,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what happened.  I have no idea – I haven’t asked yet. I’ll find out after I get back to the locker room.”

Crowder admitted it was a challenge to keep his cool in a game with such high intensity. 

“It was a good fight,” Crowder said. “It was a good fight. Both teams coming off a back-to-back. So the effort was truly there, and it was two teams playing hard.”

Crowder said he and the Celtics were very aware the referees were allowing a physical game. 

“We talked about that at halftime,” Crowder added. “The refs weren’t calling it tight, so we were able to get up into guys and play a little physical. And that’s what happened.”

 

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, John Wall, NBA
Pregame Friday: Celtics look for guys like Jae Crowder with ‘chips on their shoulders’, Tyler Zeller out the weekend 01.06.17 at 7:27 pm ET
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Listening to Brad Stevens before Friday’s game with the Sixers and you get the distinct idea that Celtics didn’t mind Jae Crowder being ticked off by the cheers for Gordon Hayward Tuesday night at TD Garden.

They could’ve just done without him taking his frustrations to social media.

“I think the chip on your shoulder thing is a good thing in a lot of ways,” Stevens said. “Jae talked about it again [Thursday]. I think the one thing that he said he wishes he wouldn’t have taken it to Twitter late. But at the end of the day, we’ve prioritized guys with chips on their shoulders and guys that really want to be good and believe they can be really good and work the right way because we think that’s contagious.”

Danny Ainge also indicated on the team’s flagship station Thursday morning that he wouldn’t mind Celtics fans cheering opposing team’s players if it’s going to inspire Crowder to greatness on the court. Stevens indicated he thought Crowder would not miss a beat and continue playing well.

“I would think fine,” Stevens said. “Yeah, I mean I would think fine. And he said his part [Thursday] and we’ve talked about it a lot. So, our focus since right after media was over [Thursday] was on the Sixers and getting ready for tonight’s game.”

Crowder is averaging 13.3 points, five rebounds and 2.3 assists this season.

Fingers crossed: The Celtics will be without back-up big man Tyler Zeller for two more games as he battles to return from a stomach bug that sent him to the hospital on New Year’s Day.

“Tyler is out for the next two games,” Stevens said Friday. “He got on the bike [Thursday]. He’s going to work out again today but he’s still pretty under weather. Jordan Mickey’s got it now so he’s out. That’s it for now. James Young continues to be out an ankle sprain.”

Stevens was asked if he was feeling OK. “I’m good, knock on wood,” the coach quipped. “Same precautions everybody else takes, right. Wash your hands and cross your fingers.”

What about a quarantine for Isaiah Thomas?

“It’s all part of it,” Stevens said without missing a beat. “You go and see any game that’s played in the NBA right now, somebody’s been sick. You just move on with who’s available.”

All-Star push: The Celtics continued their social media and media relations campaign to get representation on the All-Star team this February in New Orleans. Friday’s focus: Avery Bradley. The guard is averaging career-highs in points (17.8), rebounds (6.9), assists (2.4) and 3-point percentage (40.8). Of course, Bradley is considered the Celtics best defensive player as well. Stevens was asked Friday if a player’s defense should factor in the selection of such honors as All-Stars and player of the month.

“Should be half because that’s half the game but that’s not the way those things are chosen,” Stevens said.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, NBA
Jae Crowder stands by criticism of cheering for Gordon Hayward, apologizes for dissing Boston 01.05.17 at 1:35 pm ET
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Jazz forward Gordon Hayward shoots over Celtics counterpart Jae Crowder on Tuesday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jazz forward Gordon Hayward shoots over Celtics counterpart Jae Crowder on Tuesday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder is apologizing, but he isn’t backing down.

Speaking to reporters before Celtics practice on Thursday, Crowder said he regretted some of his “heat of the moment” comments on Twitter following Tuesday’s victory over the Jazz, when he blasted Celtics fans for cheering potential free agent target Gordon Hayward. But he stood by his assertion that home fans shouldn’t cheer rival players.

“I was really angry after the game, obviously,” Crowder told reporters, including Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston. “I said what I had to say after the game. I probably should have left it right there. I went on Twitter and said what I had to say, and there’s nothing that I regret going back and forth with fans on Twitter — that’s how I was feeling at the time.

“Obviously, I don’t want to leave Boston. Obviously, I love it here. Obviously, the fans have treated me great. No doubt about that.

“I still stand behind what I said about how I felt disrespected when they’re cheering for Gordon Hayward. I live with that. I stand behind that 100 percent as a man, as a basketball player who puts my time away from my family into it.”

Crowder got into a back-and-forth with fans over the intent of his remarks, tweeting — and subsequently deleting — that he’d be happy to leave Boston. He regretted that comment, but still doesn’t understand why Celtics fans would cheer Hayward, who played for head coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Celtics fans have similarly applauded Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins in the past.

“I didn’t like that, either,” Crowder said. “I just remember when I got here a couple years ago and we were however many games under .500, the fans cheered for us. Not one time did they cheer for another player when they came into town. Things have changed since then, I’m aware of that. That’s never happened in an arena that I’ve been in. I’ve never been on the road and got cheered for, or even one of my teammates get cheered for by the opposing team.

“It’s just something different for me that really set me off. I don’t like when they cheer for DeMarcus Cousins, I don’t like when they cheer for Kevin Durant. I don’t think you should do that. That’s all I was saying.”

Read More: Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder
Jae Crowder rips Celtics fans for cheering Utah’s Gordon Hayward before victory over Jazz 01.04.17 at 12:32 am ET
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Jae Crowder, in many ways, is the heart and soul of the Celtics. He’s the one who basically said, “Who needs him?” after Kevin Durant spurned the C’s this winter, and he was none too pleased with fans who cheered a rival on Tuesday night.

The C’s beat the Jazz, 115-104, but what got Crowder going was the reaction to Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, a potential free agent target this summer. Celtics fans cheered Hayward during introductions and Crowder took it as an insult.

“I heard the cheering before the game,” Crowder told reporters, including Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.”

Hayward led the Jazz with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but was a minus-21 overall. Crowder, meanwhile, scored 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range, and went for a plus-22. He kept up his diatribe on Twitter, in part, perhaps, because he and Hayward play the same position.

Give Crowder this much — he’s consistent. If someone does something that ticks him off, he’s not keeping his mouth shut about it.

That said, Hayward would be a valuable addition to the Celtics. The 6-foot-8 26-year-old is averaging over 22 points and 6 rebounds a game for the resurgent Jazz, who are 22-14 and ranked fifth in the Western Conference.

Read More: Celtics, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, jazz
Celtics Pregame Notes: Can Amir Johnson help Celtics improve on the glass? 11.30.16 at 6:24 pm ET
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Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

The Celtics will be back to full strength for Wednesday’s tilt against the Pistons, with Al Horford back in action following the birth of his second child. 

Horford’s addition will be a much-needed addition to a Celtics team still very much attempting to find its touch on the glass. The Celtics have been out-rebounded five of the last six games, due in some aspects to mismatches and guys having to play bigger than they are.

That notwithstanding, the Celtics are heavily reliant on asking guards to grab boards, as the boxing out responsibilities rest on the bigs.

Said coach Brad Stevens, “We ask our bigs to block out. Sometimes when you’re blocking out and you’re the same size or bigger, you can get the ball. But sometimes when you’re blocking out and smaller you just have to keep the other guy from getting it.”

As has been standard since his acquisition prior to the 2015-16 season, Amir Johnson has been tasked with playing a key role in the paint. Standing at 6-foot-9 and occasionally having to run the five, a stat sheet — which currently has him averaging 4.2 boards per game — can be a misleading basis of judgement.

“We’re asking Amir Johnson to guard a lot of fives, so to judge Amir’s performance by his defensive rebound percentage probably isn’t fair, because there’s probably six rebounds a game that somebody else gets in large part because he’s doing his job,” Stevens said.

Jonas Jerebko has found himself in a nice stretch of late off the bench. In his past seven games, the 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 6.4 points per game while shooting 81.8 percent from the field.

Since late last season, the 29-year-old has shown a wide range of versatility as a solid defender, a shooter, and a player with finesse around the basket — as evidenced by his more and more frequent use of a hook shot from just outside the paint.

“[He’s] just trying to do what he’s good at, I think that’s the most important thing. He’s a spacer and he’s a guy that can guard multiple positions and he’s really, really good when he does those things,” Stevens said.

Part of the current run for Jerebko can be attributed to his synergy with Kelly Olynyk, with the two combining well off the bench in Olynyk’s 11 games so far this season. The pair play a similar style, and can pose a threat from both the paint and the perimeter.

“I think people are figuring out how to play and play together and anytime you can do that, that’s better. [Jerebko] and Kelly have been a good combination for a while now, and I think that they kind of play and feed off each other.”

Other Celtics Notes

— Jae Crowder won’t be confined to any minutes restrictions in the foreseeable future. Stevens noted he hasn’t heard about any sort of minutes restrictions since before Monday’s win over the Heat.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko
Can the Celtics reel in Marcus Smart? Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens are working on it 11.29.16 at 8:15 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Jae Crowder could see and hear Miami coach Erik Spoestra trying an old trick Monday night to get under the skin of Marcus Smart. 

Crowder and everybody else familiar with Smart knows the third-year guard came out of Oklahoma State with a reputation for letting his intensity turn into anger and frustration, eventually leading to technical fouls or worse. 

“It’s funny because I was telling him [Monday] during the game, Spoelstra was saying, ‘He’s a hothead. He’s a hothead.’ So obviously that was part of the game plane to try to get under his skin a little bit,” Crowder said with a brotherly smile after practice Tuesday.

“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions on his sleeves so they’re going to do stuff like that. And you just have to be more cautious of it and know that it’s just a game they’re trying to play with him. I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll be more aware of it. And hopefully he gets better.”

Tired of getting hacked by Goran Dragic, Smart indeed took a technical foul when he complained about a double-foul with 2:26 left in the game. There’s clearly a fine line for Smart to walk and always has been since he came into the NBA in 2014. 

“I was begging for Spoelstra to get a technical foul because he was saying a lot of stuff. He was everywhere last night, but that’s one of the things he did say. When they went to intentional foul Marcus it was obvious that what they were trying to do was more than just foul. They were trying to get under his skin and play a little physical, and knowing he wanted to retaliate for the most part. So it’s just part of the scouting report on I guess Marcus that he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”

Crowder got his wish when Spoelstra was finally T’d up with 2:11 left as the Celtics pulled away for the 112-104 win. 

“It’s a very fine [line]. He as a person, as an individual, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We as teammates can keep being on him about it, but it’s about him and being able to control it. A lot of players and coaches in this league know he’s an emotional type of guy, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to get under his skin and in his head. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team’s sake. And take care of business.”

Can Crowder see a maturity in Smart?

“Of course. He has not gone backwards in that regard,” Crowder said. “But he’s playing more minutes now than he was when he was a rookie. He’s playing a bigger role now, so we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint. You can’t just give away points at the free throw line on technicals and flagrants and stuff like that. So, we’ll keep pounding it in his head, and he keeps [telling] us he wants to change, so he’ll get better, hopefully.” 

Brad Stevens is also keeping a close eye on Smart’s on-court intensity. 

“I think toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table and everything else but you have to have a competitiveness and an ability to figure out a way to win that possession,” Stevens said. “He’s able to do that on a lot of possessions.”

There’s an obvious irony to what happened Monday as it’s usually Smart and his intense defense that agitates and gets opposing players out of their game. 

“Well, he plays physical. For the most part, a lot of guys don’t like to play physical,” Crowder said. “They want an easy-flowing game and Marcus don’t play like that. That alone just gets under guys’ skin, just him playing physical and him being a presence on the basketball court with his body and his stature. A lot of players don’t like it. [Hassan] Whiteside is one of those guys who doesn’t like to play that physical. He likes to play physical as long as guys don’t play physical back with him. So, he didn’t like the foul Marcus laid on him late in the first quarter.”

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Erik Spoelstra, Jae Crowder
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