The Jae Crowder the Dallas Mavericks faced on Saturday night probably resembled the one that spent two and a half years in Dallas, than the star role player we saw in Boston. Since being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Crowder has been underwhelming as he tries to adjust to a new situation.
For a player that is touted as a three-and-d stud, Crowders defense and shooting have been shaky through 13 games. His three point percentage of 29.3 is tied for the lowest of his career and the Cavs offensive and defensive numbers take a hit when he is on the court.
While the shooting was always going to be a question mark, it’s clear that Crowder can play better than he has so far. Getting him acclimated and increasing his effectiveness has to be one of the team’s biggest priorities, as he is capable of making a significant impact on the team when he’s at his best.
That sense of urgency was clear in ESPN’s Dave McMenamin’s latest feature on Crowder. The piece talked about what players like LeBron James, Kyle Korver, and Kevin Love have done to try and keep him involved. It also included reflection from Crowder on where he sees himself through 13 games:
"I'm not where I want to be, honestly," Crowder said. "But I feel like I'm getting there. Every day with every film session I get better and that's the key. But like I said, these guys always preach about, 'All we play for is a championship.' Once that time comes or once we continue to build throughout each game in the regular season, once the playoffs come, hopefully everybody will be where they need to be."
"LeBron always tells me to shoot the ball," he said. "Don't worry about stats, don't worry about percentages. 'We know what you can do, just shoot the ball and be comfortable.' I just think I've got to be more aggressive at both ends of the floor. When I'm aggressive on the defensive end it really helps me on offense."
It’s funny to see how the culture of the Cavs has already sunk in for Crowder. While last year’s Celtics treated every game like game seven, it’s clear that Crowder is focused on the bigger picture with the Cavs. While that mentality leads to some of the excruciating basketball we’ve seen from the team this season, it’s positive that the team is comfortable taking some losses in the name of trying new things and figuring out what works.
While the lack of effort we’ve seen at times this season isn’t a productive part of the process, we have seen players adjust and some growth throughout the year. Crowder didn’t shoot well against the Mavericks, but he kept grinding and finished with 15 points, 7 boards and three assists. He found a way to make a difference in a win the team couldn’t afford to let get away from them.
Adjusting to a new role and a new system is one thing. But with Crowder’s skill set and ability to play multiple positions, he needs to learn and adapt to multiple roles depending on the situation.
The responsibility he carries and the various duties the team relies on him for may be part of what has made his transition with the Cavs bumpy to start the season. But if the team didn’t believe in his ability to impact the game at multiple positions, they wouldn’t be asking him to do that in the first place. It’s a process, and Saturday’s win over the Mavericks was another step in the right direction.