While point guard Isaiah Thomas has gotten much of the credit for his trail of blazing fourth quarters, the Marquette alum was just as instrumental in changing the culture of a then-Celtics team that was complacent and looking to take shape.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” said Crowder, who heard exactly what he needed to hear when then-new coach Brad Stevens suggested winning was the only thing that mattered to him.
“That’s all it’s about with me: winning,” Crowder told ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “It’s all a desire to win — to win the next game, to win the next practice, to win the next day. My college coach [Buzz Williams at Marquette] did a great job of breaking down my focus by days. I just wanted to win that day, not worry about tomorrow, not worry about the last day, just win that day. An emphasis to have a great day, a successful day, and don’t let anything bother you.”
“So when I talked to Brad about winning and losing, I felt like the energy in the whole gym was OK with losing at the time. That didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want to be a part of anything like that. I didn’t want to be part of a tanking team. I just wanted to win and just work to be a good team.”
Crowder has made strides of him own, becoming a much better three-point shooter (39 percent) and rounding his 13.2 points per game with 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists — remaining the surefire elite defender he’s been since the beginning of his career.
“I just think that that’s what comes to mind when I think of Jae,” Stevens said. “I think Jae puts in a lot of work. I think our guys kind of believe in his toughness and his grit and all the things he does that lead to winning. They may not use those exact words, but I think that’s how we all feel about Jae.
“I think those type of guys are really important too. Like, you just have to believe. Jae goes out there every night thinking he’s going to do everything in his power to help you win the game.”
After the Washington Wizards‘ sudden loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Celtics are once again in sole possession of second place in the East, but will need every bit of their 6-foot-6 wing to make that last push to remain the No. 2 seed.