Jae Crowder: “It’s All A Blessing”
Getting To Know One Of Miami’s Newest Additions
Photo Credit: Cameron Browne
Whenever a player changes teams, there’s usually some sort of adjustment period.
But that really hasn’t been the case for Jae Crowder.
Since joining the HEAT rotation on Feb. 9, Crowder has been invaluable on both ends of the floor thanks to his defensive versatility and ability to shoot it from deep. In turn, the 29-year-old vet has earned the trust of Coach Erik Spoelstra rather quickly.
After practice on Tuesday, Crowder sat down with HEAT.com to discuss his upbringing, his thoughts on the organization and much more.
Note: some of this interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
I saw that while you were in high school, you called up your dad, Corey, and asked him to help you lose weight. What prompted that call? Did something just click in your mind that you had what it took to be a professional athlete?
At that time, I didn’t think I could be a professional athlete, but I did have love for the game. And my dad used to ask me every day, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I didn’t have an answer, so when I got to thinking, ‘Like, dang, what do I really want to do?’ I just wanted to give myself a chance to be an athlete because I really loved the game of basketball. And that’s what sparked the conversation to me and made me try to get my body in the best shape.
How were those training sessions in the summers with your dad?
Brutal. There were a lot of two-a-days, obviously. We worked out in the mornings, and I would go run and play with him and then see him work out. And then at night, before the playoffs came on, he would have me run the neighborhood. And I just felt like that triggered me to be ahead of my years at that age. I was probably 15, 16 then, so I was probably the only kid running in the neighborhood and just trying to change my body and just trying to change my habits. So, it happened very early for me.
How cool is it that you and your dad had a similar journey in that you had to earn everything?
It was definitely cool to follow his footsteps in that aspect because that’s who I looked up to, that was the main guy. I wanted to be just like him. I saw all the ups and downs he went through in his career, and he just stayed the course. He was always well respected everywhere he went, so it’s just kind of cool to follow in his footsteps and play this game at the highest level possible and provide for my family, provide for myself and have the joy of coming to work each and every day trying to get better.
Even though you’ve established yourself in this league, how often does he give you pointers or advice?
All the time. He was literally at my house before the game [against the Bucks on Monday]. I wake up from my nap, and he’s in my living room. And I’m like, ‘Aw, here he goes.’ So, he’s always going to give me pointers before the game. He’s saying X amount of rebounds. He never talks about points. Obviously, that’s part of the game, but he just felt like there was more that could be done on the basketball court than just score the basketball. And that’s what he always reminds me of. He reminds me of, ‘You got to be on the floor first, you got to get the rebound, get the game-winning rebound. And have the same amount of joy as just hitting a game-winning shot.’ And I think him instilling that in me has really shaped my career, shaped me as a basketball player, and hopefully I go down as a winner.
Him being in Fort Myers probably helps, right?
For sure. Like I said, he drove down. He wasn’t there when I woke up in the morning. I took my nap before the game, I woke up [and] he was in my living room. So, it’s cool to have him that close.
A lot has been made about Jimmy fitting in perfectly with HEAT culture, but you seem to be just as much of a fit. How does the HEAT differ from the other organizations you’ve been a part of?
They just demand a lot. They just demand an all-around professional on and off the court. They demand you to be at your best, and I think that brings the best out of players. When you have that accountability from top to bottom, you’re either going to fit in or you’re going to fit out. And I think it’s very evident. I learned quickly that this organization from top to bottom demands a lot. And I think that helps build a winning culture that we have here. It’s just fun to be a part of.
I enjoy being held accountable, I enjoy holding my teammates accountable and being someone that my teammates can depend on.
You’ve been around some great coaches during your tenure in the league. What stands out to you about Coach Spo thus far?
How he motivates us. I think his motivation to get the best out of his team, his players, is unique. It’s not to say he’s a better coach than everybody, but he definitely brings an aspect of the game at this level to get professionals to bring it each and every night. It’s tough to do in this league. And I think he does a great job of motivating us as a unit, demanding so much from us and expecting a lot from us. So, I think that right there sets the bar high of him already being one of my top coaches in my career. He helps me squeeze the most I can get out of that day, the most I can get out of a practice, the most I can get out of a game and how I can prepare for a game. He’s already put a great impression on me from just that aspect of the game.
Speaking of coaches, did Pat call you after the trade?
Yeah, for sure. I talked to Pat on the phone. I was just very humble. I told him I was very happy to be a part of the organization and that I’ve heard nothing but great things. He said for years now he’s been looking at me as a player, he respects me and what I bring to the game. So, I talked to him very briefly right there before I met with the guys on the west coast trip. But from that point on, I told him I’m going to work hard. I’m a worker anyways, so it’s nothing new that he demands so much out of his players. I had a vision of feeling comfortable here, but I really honestly feel at home here.
Was that the first time you’ve ever talked to him?
What’s been your early impressions of Bam?
He’s a hell of a talent. He’s one of our leaders in the locker room. We count on him to do a lot on the court with passing and playmaking. And I just think the trust that the organization and the coaching staff has showed in him to bring the ball up the court and have the ball in his hands to make plays, it shows the work that he’s put in behind the scenes. And you have to respect that. I actually saw him this summer. I live here in the offseason. He was playing in the Pro Am, and I went and saw him play and he was killing it. And I was like, ‘Oh my God. This year should be special for him.’ And look at the year he’s having. He’s an All-Star, and it started with the summer work he put in. It’s amazing to see him blossom and grow at this level.
That means you saw DJ [Derrick Jones Jr.], too, because I know he was there jamming.
They were on the same team. Yup, so I saw the whole nine. I saw both of those guys going crazy.
How fun is it to play with Jimmy again? I know you guys were teammates at Marquette. He’s talked about how you’ve always been smiling and joking and are a good fit.
I didn’t think we’d ever play again, but I did enjoy the time that we spent in college obviously. He’s a hell of a player. He got drafted before me, so he was the guy, when I was in my last year, I looked up to. I wanted to be just like that. I wanted to get drafted, I wanted to have an NBA career. He led the way, and I think he showed me how to get there. And for me to be his teammate again, X amount of years later, it’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing for us to be established in this league as household names, fighting for one goal. It’d be amazing to win it all with him because I know the work he puts in. And he knows what I bring to a team. We respect each other from the time we met in college to the time now. It’s just been nothing but respect. Honestly, I enjoy playing with him because he’s a warrior on the court. You know what you’re going to get with him. It’s no bull**** around what he brings and how he holds himself, so to play alongside him again, it feels great.
Goes back to the accountability you were talking about earlier.
We both have it. We bumped heads in college about it. I was JUCO Player of the Year coming into his team at Marquette when he was a senior. With that accountability, we just pushed each other that whole year. I knew he had a goal to get to the NBA, and he achieved that by just working hard and playing hard. And I think now that we’re at the highest level, we continue to push each other.
I know you have a relationship with Dwyane given the Marquette ties and the fact that you played together in Cleveland. What impact did he have on your career?
Well, that’s my big brother. He’s someone I can call anytime of the night, anytime of the day, and just ask for advice about life, about basketball, about anything.
It seems like that’s what he’s about.
Yeah, and he’s just been there ever since I met him when I got to Marquette. From that point on up until now, he’s been accountable each and every day I call him or text him. He’s been a guy who responds back, and he’s definitely helped me mold my life off the court. Obviously, when we were teammates for the short amount of time in Cleveland, he was the big brother I depended on for the knowledge of the game, trying to see what he sees and trying to apply it to each and every game. But he’s always been that big brother to me, and that’s the one I can depend on.
How cool was it to be in the building for his jersey retirement?
Amazing. That was another special moment for me. It felt like my introduction to this culture, to the organization. I felt like, ‘Damn, this feels right. Everything feels right. That’s my big brother up there getting his jersey retired. He’s having a three-day event.’ It just felt right, you know what I mean? And I just was so happy to be a part of it, to text him, to call him that night after the game and just hear how happy he was. And it just felt great. I’m glad I was able to see that.
How was your experience when you went back to Marquette for your Hall of Fame induction in early February?
That was amazing, too. It was something that I worked for, something that my mom would be proud of. My mom passed away two years ago, but I dedicated that to her because I knew she would be very proud of me for accomplishing that and achieving the things that I did at that level because she was a Marquette fan. When I got there, everyone on the team knew it. She was like the mom of the team, so to have that accolade there on my resume is amazing for her. And the whole ceremony was amazing, it was special for me and I’ll never forget it.
A lot of people look at your years in Boston as the peak of your three-point shooting. Thus far here, you’re at 45.1 percent from deep. What do you think is key to keeping that percentage in the 40s?
It’s crazy you say that people say that’s my peak because I had a conversation with my friends [Monday night]. I was telling them I’m seeing the game differently than when I saw it back then. I was still growing at that stage of my career. I’m still growing now, but not at the pace that I was growing back then. And I just feel like I’m more comfortable. I’m much more rounded as a basketball player at this level, where I’m at today. And I think with this organization, the way we play, it shows how I can help this team. I can play not only like I played in Boston, but above that. I can help the team win at a higher level than what I did in Boston. I just feel like that speaks on my growth of the game and the work that I’ve put in and I continue to put in.
This is probably the best situation I’ve been in since Boston. Utah a little bit, but this situation feels so right. And I feel so right on the court with these guys and playing for one goal and playing so hard and competing, which is the main goal for us.
You’ve shown the ability to switch on defense and pretty much guard every position. How much pride do you take in being a versatile defender?
That’s my calling card. That’s what I hang my hat on. I remember when they were saying Draymond Green was changing the league in that sense of guys being my size and being able to guard multiple positions. And when they were saying that, I just felt like, ‘Yeah, that’s me too.’ I knew all along that I could do it. It was just a matter of time before it was on display for the world, for my team, coaches and the rest of the league. But I’ve always felt like that was my calling card. Like at Marquette, Jimmy was 6’6” playing the five, four, three. We’ll play any position. We were very switchable, and I just feel like now that’s the way the league has went, and I just fit right in the perfect mold.
I feel very comfortable doing it. Hopefully we continue to do that and get better because it takes a lot of communication. It not only takes the God-given ability that we have to guard, but it takes a lot of communication with your teammates and everybody being on the same page. So, it’s definitely an area we can continue to grow on. I feel like it definitely would help us in the playoffs.
I know you’re all about winning, but do you have any personal career goals?
I like to leave that to myself. I don’t like to talk about it because it’s very, very personal. It’s not for the world. But my dad has always told me to write down my goals.
My ultimate goal, really, is to win a championship. That’s my ultimate goal no matter the statistics or how I do it or what numbers I put up in the box score. I want to be on a championship team. I want to do whatever it takes to win a game.
On your social media, you inspire others and talk a lot about turning your dreams into reality and how blessed you’ve been to make it this far. Do you ever sit back and reflect on everything that you’ve been through up until this point?
I honestly do. My dad does a good job of reminding me where I came from. I just keep that chip on my shoulder because all these people are patting me on my back now, but I remember the times when they were counting me out. I still have people doubting me, that’s just a part of it. But at the same time, you put the work in and you overcome all of that. And I just feel like if I keep that chip on my shoulder, never forget where I come from, always put the work in, never feel satisfied, the sky’s the limit. And that’s my motto, but it is a blessing. I’m very, very thankful.
I love this game. I’ll play it anywhere. If I wasn’t in the NBA, I’ll still probably go to the YMCA and play this game. That’s how much I love it, so it’s all a blessing.