Healthy, Vibrant Crowder Says Jumper is Back
WALTHAM, Mass. – The offseason provides ample time for NBA players to rest up and refuel for the next season. Perhaps no member of the Boston Celtics took greater advantage of that reenergizing opportunity than Jae Crowder.
The forward fought through fatigue and pain during the final month of the 2015-16 season after suffering a high right ankle sprain during mid-March. The injury had a profound impact on his overall game, particularly on the jump shot that he had worked on tirelessly throughout the year.
Rest was apparently the potion for success for Crowder, and as the Celtics entered their second day of training camp Wednesday, the fifth-year forward and his teammates agreed that it paid off.
“Jae’s always been a good shooter,” said teammate Avery Bradley. “It’s just [about] confidence and opportunity. Once he got those two things back, he’s out there playing basketball, making shots, doing what Jae Crowder does.”
Celtics fans missed that Jae Crowder during the final stretch of last season. Through the first 65 games of the campaign, he was shooting career bests from the field (45.3 percent) and from 3-point range (35.4 percent), but those numbers came crashing down to 32.9 percent and 24.0 percent, respectively, following his injury.
“My ankle was more fatigued than I really realized,” reflected Crowder, who was Boston’s most efficient crunch-time shooter last season. “The way the season ended really gave me a chip on my shoulder to get better and to get in the lab and work and get better at the things I needed to work on.”
Much of Crowder’s offseason routine consisted of pool workouts to help strengthen his ankle and lower body. Those workouts apparently did wonders, because now he’s feeling better than ever, and he’s proving it so far with a confident jumper.
“Nothing’s bothering me physically,” Crowder vibrantly stated Wednesday evening. “I’m just healthy right now and I’ve worked all summer at [my shot], so it’s coming to light right now in practice.”
Crowder’s boosted confidence is even coming to light to some of his new teammates. Al Horford, who was on the Atlanta Hawks’ side of the ball when they eliminated the C’s from the playoffs last season, has been playing pickup with Crowder, and he senses a huge difference from when the two met as foes during April.
“We knew he wasn’t healthy, there’s no question about it,” Horford recalled. “But he’s healthy now, and we’re happy. It’s a good thing. [Crowder’s jump shot] just seems more fluid. He seems more confident in it.”
After Crowder’s injury, it was particularly challenging for him to shoot off the dribble because he had difficulty launching himself into the air off of his bum ankle. Now he says he’s a lot more comfortable pulling up for jumpers off the dribble or coming off picks for step-back shots.
“I’m way more comfortable off the dribble, shooting the ball of the dribble, making a play off the dribble,” said Crowder. “And of course, Isaiah [Thomas] is gonna draw a lot of attention [on the offensive end] and Al is gonna draw a lot of attention, so I should have a lot of shots on the court where it’s just me stepping into a shot and making it.”
The Celtics will be counting on Crowder to consistently make those shots just as he did throughout the majority of last season. Now that his ankle is fully recovered and he’s back to his old, vibrant self, C’s fans should soon expect to see Crowder lighting up the net once again.