If any player on Boston’s current roster could be said to bleed Celtics green, it would have to be forward Jae Crowder. Crowder, one of those guys credited with instilling “heart” into whatever team he’s on, turned the loyalist/”company man” stuff up to 11 with his reaction to Kevin Durant‘s decision not to join Gang Green as a free agent in July. The 6-foot-6, fifth-year man from Marquette was surprised that Durant turned down the pitch from a contingent that included Crowder, and he especially was peeved that the Celtics revealed some of the tactics they used against the former OKC star and his new team in Golden State.
Just because Crowder is long on Celtics pride, though, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t feel good about his near-miss at playing for the New York Knicks. That path-not-taken came up in an interview with Knicks team president Phil Jackson, conducted after the season by Jackson’s pal Charley Rosen and posted Friday by Today’s Fastbreak.
Jackson, in assessing this past season, looked all the way back to his earliest move in June 2014 and the regret that lingers over not grabbing Crowder when he had the chance:
“I don’t consider hiring [since-fired Derek Fisher as coach] a mistake because he worked hard and got the guys to stay as positive as possible while the losses piled up. I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.
“Anyway, for all of us, making mistakes are part of the learning process…”
Crowder’s value was harder to ascertain back then, coming off his second season in the league and filling a reserve role for the Mavericks. Even pro-rated to 36 minutes, Crowder then (10.2 ppg, 11.9 PER) wasn’t the player he’s become (16.2 ppg, 15.8 PER in 2015-16), his defense and leadership blossoming in Boston as well.
But to have a legend such as Jackson kicking himself publicly for passing you by – and then to know you’ve avoided the Madison Square Garden mess of the past two seasons that only now seems to be getting straightened out – has to rank as a double-blessing for the 26-year-old Crowder.