DALLAS — It was an up-and-down second season for Dallas Mavericks forward Jae Crowder, but the former Marquette standout now enters the summer with plenty to build upon.
Playing in 78 outings for the second straight season, the 6-foot-6 Crowder would see his number of starts cut in half after finding himself in the first unit 16 times during his rookie campaign. He also saw his production slightly dip from Year 1 to Year 2 while going from 17.3 minutes per game as a rookie to 16.1 minutes an outing this season.
But, after boosting his shooting percentage from 38.4 percent in his first year to 43.9 percent this season, Crowder felt like he gained the confidence of his teammates while making strides on the offensive side of the ball.
“It’s just a mindset. I don’t know when I’m going to get my shot (in the games), but when it comes I have to step into it aggressively and take them,” Crowder said during the season. “I know I can shoot the ball and my teammates have faith in me, so I just have to step in and shoot.”
Committed to bettering his outside shooting after connecting on just 32.8 percent from three-point range as a rookie, Crowder worked tirelessly last summer to find a better rhythm behind the arc. Known for his defensive prowess while often relieving veteran Shawn Marion and guarding the opposition’s best perimeter stars, Crowder looked to develop into more of a two-way player during his second season. The 34th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft then came out the gates firing on all cylinders to start the season, following up a career-high 18-point outing on Nov. 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers with 17 points the next night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I just stayed in the gym and worked on my shot,” the 23-year-old Crowder explained. ”I knew I wasn’t a 32-percent three-point shooter. In the offseason, I spent a lot of time in the gym and really worked on my shot. I have a lot of confidence.”
He added: “I came into camp knowing I had to improve on my outside shooting and be more consistent. To get minutes on this team I need to be able to stretch the floor, and that’s what I’ve been trying to work on and that’s what the coaches have been working me with and trying to get better every day.”
However, by season’s end Crowder would once again find himself in a slump, finishing the year shooting just 33.1 percent from long range.
After briefly falling out of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation, Crowder regained his confidence during a brief stint with the team’s Development League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Crowder immediately dominated with the Legends, recording consecutive triple-doubles and a combined 55 points, 32 rebounds and 20 assists in two appearances. However, despite connecting on 44.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range during Dallas’ first-round playoff series in seven games against the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, Crowder played just a minimal role for the Mavericks and averaged only 2.7 points and 1.7 assists in his 11.6 minutes of work off the bench.
Still, Carlisle says he saw gradual improvements in Crowder’s game that figures to benefit the team next season.
“You know, I think Crowder is going to keep getting better. … And you’ve got to have a system where younger guys are getting better,” Carlisle said.
With both Marion and sixth man Vince Carter set to enter free agency on July 1, the Mavericks may need to call on Crowder even more so next season at the small forward spot. With that said, Crowder showed that he can handle a larger role, playing a career-high 40 minutes and registering 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting during a 107-90 road win at New Orleans on Jan. 10.
But consistency is what Crowder will search for before heading into his third season, looking to become a more reliable contributor for the Mavs going forward.
“It’s a dream come true to play in the NBA,” Crowder modestly said. “I really stamped my NBA mark here and I can go up from here. I just need to keep working hard, let the moment last and get ready to come back and play hard.
“It’s an honor to play for the Mavericks and to put on this uniform. You’re playing for those guys in the locker room and the organization. It’s a great feeling. I just want to give it my all every day.”