DALLAS — Despite winning 2012 Big East Player of the Year honors, Dallas Mavericks rookie Jae Crowder came into the NBA unheralded.
The former Marquette standout and No. 34 overall pick in last June’s draft was under the radar before earning an all-tournament selection in the Las Vegas Summer League the next month. The undersized forward then immediately found himself thrust into Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation, having to make a quick transition to the professional ranks while appearing in 78 games and making 16 starts during his first season.
“It’s been a good year. I learned a lot of stuff about being a professional and being a basketball player, so it’s been a good one for me. It was a long one, but it was a good one,” Crowder said while summing up his first campaign.
Playing 17.3 minutes an outing, Crowder would admittedly hit a wall his first season while adjusting to the grueling 82-game schedule. Shooting 47.9 percent from the field during the month of November, the first-year pro would come out of the gate strong. But by season’s end he would finish hitting only 38.4 percent of his shots from the field and 32.8 percent from 3-point range, averaging 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists on the year.
Now, following an offseason of conditioning and likely taking the lead role on the Mavs’ summer squad for a second straight year, Crowder vows to return better and more versatile while trying to help his team return to the postseason after seeing the franchise’s 12-year run of consecutive playoff appearances come to an end.
“Probably right there before All-Star break,” Crowder said while recalling when he felt himself hitting a wall. “You know, I would have played the whole college season at that point, so I knew it was going to be a long one for me. But I had great vets around me, so they kept me going each and every day.
“Probably the traveling,” he added when singling out the toughest part of his rookie season. “In and out of hotels so much and just being ready to play every game. It’s so many games, and you have to be ready mentally and physically for those games. It’s something new for me of course, but I’ve got a year under my belt, so I know much more how to approach all of the things I just mentioned in a better way.”
Learning from veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter every day in practice, Crowder was greeted with a crash course in professionalism as the Mavericks battled back from 10 games below .500 on Jan. 9 to finish the season by breaking even at 41-41. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder now plans to carry those lessons into Year 2, hoping to play a bigger role for the Mavs next season as they attempt to fill vacancies left over by nine expiring contracts.
“Now you know your role. Now you know how the game is and the pace of the game, so you can put it all to work. I’m looking forward to doing that. … I think with the ups and downs of the season you just learn how to be a true professional. You come to work every day, even when things are not going well for you. But when things are going good, you have to have a short memory and then put that in the past and try to work on the things to get you to the next level. Those guys really came to work every day and I learned that more so than any words given to me,” Crowder proclaimed.
And with a lottery pick likely to join forces with the young forward this summer following the draft, Crowder also has a bit of advice for his future teammate.
“Find you someone on the team and really just focus on what they do on and off the court,” he said. “They help you out so much once you see, not only just talking about words but by the actions of the older guys, and you really learn how to become a true professional.”