Nov 11, 2017 8:00 AM ET
Jae Crowder is one of the team’s most respected veterans. But the rugged, hard-working forward from Marquette earned respect long before he made his move to the Eastern Conference.
Crowder was actually a Cavalier for a brief moment – taken 34th overall in the 2012 Draft before immediately being dealt to Dallas (along with Jared Cunningham and Bernard James) in exchange for Tyler Zeller and Kelenna Azubuike.
The former Marquette star joined a Mavericks team still coming down from their incredible Finals run the previous summer – taking down the favored Miami Heat in 2011. But injuries to Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion opened the door for Crowder to make an impact as a rookie – and he did.
Halfway through the 2014 season, Crowder was traded to the Celtics in a deal that brought Rajon Rondo to Dallas. From there, he became the player that he is today. And after being dealt to the Wine & Gold this offseason, his journey is – in some ways – just beginning.
As the Cavaliers’ road trip sends them to Dallas for a meeting with the Mavericks on Saturday night, Cavs.com sat down with Crowder to talk about the ups and downs of his freshman campaign in the Big D …A young Jae Crowder gets some major air in his rookie photo shoot after being tabbed by the Mavericks. Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images What was it like for a rookie joining a team just coming off an NBA Championship? Jae Crowder: It was very inspiring. Those guys really wanted to get back there, but it didn't work out. Obviously, we were disappointed; we didn't make it as far as we wanted to. But it was great to be around that atmosphere of wanting to be a Champion, wanting to win. I got that instilled in me early, so that was good. Was there ever a moment on Draft night when you thought you’d be a Cavalier? Crowder: I don't know. As soon as I got a phone call from my agent talking about Cleveland, I got a phone call from Mark (Cuban). So, not really. Were you glad to join a veteran group, knowing minutes could be a at a premium? Crowder: Of course I was. It was a great situation. I knew I was going to a veteran group so I could learn a lot. I knew it was gonna be hard for me to get playing time, but I wanted to learn, I was eager to learn and work. So, I was actually very happy about that. As a young player, you just want to play; you want to learn on the court. I got the opportunity early and it really helped me out and gave me some early experience. I had my ups and I had my downs. But I just tried to make the most of it and the vets really helped bring me along as a young guy. How was Rick Carlisle as your first NBA coach? Crowder: He was tough, man. Yeah, he's a tough coach for a rookie and a young player, but him being on me really taught me a lot. I earned every minute that I got from him. It helped me in the long run, but at the time it was frustrating. "I wanted them to be tough on me. And the ones that were tough on me were the ones who helped me the most: Elton Brand and Vince Carter." As a second rounder, did you come into the league with a chip on your shoulder? Crowder: Yeah, for sure. I felt like some of the guys who got drafted ahead of me weren't as good. So, it was tough to sit back and watch that, but I just wanted the opportunity and that's what I got. What was the Mark Cuban experience like? Crowder: Great owner; hands-on, at practices, very vocal during games – as we all know. But it was great to be part of that, and I still have a great relationship with him. I talked with him when my mom passed for a good few weeks. I always tell him that I'm appreciative of the opportunity. Were any of the veterans especially tough on you? Which ones took you under their wing? Crowder: I wanted them to be tough on me. And the ones that were tough on me were the ones who helped me the most: Elton Brand and Vince Carter. Dirk (Nowitzki) is less of a talker, obviously, but he did pull me aside every now and then because I was in the rotation and I played in a lot of meaningful games. But the guy that was on me daily was Vince Carter. He and Elton Brand really took me in and showed me the way. Any rookie initiation? Crowder: Yeah, I had to get the chicken for every flight. Popeye's -- every flight. But I got reimbursed. About every three trips I got reimbursed by the vets. Of course, I had to be early because the plane doesn't wait for nobody -- especially not a rookie. So, I had to make sure I was ahead of the curve a little bit. The veterans reimbursed you?! Crowder: Yeah, man. They took care of me.