Pregame Post-Ups: Young Grizzlies Benefitting From Crowder's Leadership
Wednesday, Jan. 22 - Grizzlies at Celtics
Pregame – Young Grizzlies Benefitting From Crowder's Leadership
BOSTON – The young trio of Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson and Ja Morant has claimed most of the spotlight in Memphis this season, but one of the most critical pieces that has driven the Grizzlies into the playoff picture has been veteran wing Jae Crowder. The former Celtic, who returns to Boston with his new team tonight, has played a significant leadership role for this youthful, up-and-coming Grizzlies squad. First-year head coach Taylor Jenkins believes that much of their success has been thanks to his guidance.
“From the moment I sat down with him, he was super excited about this opportunity, how this was obviously a new role for him,” Jenkins told Celtics.com before tip-off inside TD Garden. “He credits a lot of people that he learned from in his journey from Dallas to Boston, Cleveland, Utah, and to now where he can fill that leadership role.
“Obviously, he’s got to lead by example on the floor. There’s so many things that go on behind the scenes, how he works every single day individually, and that kind of sets the tone for the group. But one of the great things I’ve said a lot is that he’s really empowered our young guys to grow – their maturation process. He recognizes how other vets kind of empowered him to grow, so him being able to do that really allows our young guys to grow as well, and he’s been a voice that these guys can lean on. He’s been a guy that I’ve had to lean on at times, whether it’s in a film session, in a timeout in the flow of a game. So to have another extension out there in the leadership role is huge for us.”
As Memphis’ starting small forward, Crowder has averaged 10.2 points per game, along with career-highs of 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest. His steady presence has played a major part in leading the Grizz to eighth place in the Western Conference, despite many preseason projections that had them landing in the lottery.
Crowder’s former Celtics coach isn’t the least bit surprised by this development.
“I just think Jae’s a winner,” said Brad Stevens. “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 preseason expectations are and he just impacts winning. He cares about it. He plays both ends of the court. He was one of the first guys that we had during the first couple years I was here that could play a number of different positions, could guard a number of different positions, and just was very comfortable with adding value to winning. So I’ve always really appreciated Jae and it’s been fun to watch from afar since he’s left.”
- Taylor Snow