Mavs acquire four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have acquired four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo and center Dwight Powell from the Boston Celtics in exchange for center Brandan Wright, forward Jae Crowder, guard Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick.

Rondo (6-1, 186) is an eight-year guard who has spent his entire professional career with the Celtics. In addition to being a four-time NBA All-Star (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), Rondo has been named All-NBA Defensive Team four times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), All-NBA Third Team (2012) and was the starting point guard on Boston’s 2008 NBA Championship team. He has played in 527 career games (474 starts) and holds averages of 11.0 points, 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 32.9 minutes per game.

The veteran point guard also has extensive postseason experience having competed in two NBA Finals and starting each of his 92 career Playoff games. Rondo holds postseason career averages of 14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 38.5 minutes per game.

Rondo currently leads the NBA in assists with 10.8 assists per game. He led the league in that category in both 2011-12 (11.7 apg) and 2012-13 (11.1 apg). He also holds several Celtics’ franchise assists records including single-season total with 794 assists (2009-10), assists per game with 11.7 apg (2011-12) and assists in an NBA Playoff game with 20 (2011).

The Louisville, Ky., native was originally the 21st pick of the 2006 NBA Draft after declaring as an early-entry candidate out the University of Kentucky. In just his freshman season as a Wildcat, Rondo set Kentucky’s all-time single-season steals mark with 87 steals in 34 games.

Powell (6-11, 240) is a rookie center who hails from Toronto, Canada and has seen action in five games this season with averages of 1.8 points, 0.2 rebounds and 1.8 minutes per game.

A former Stanford University standout, Powell was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 45th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He was originally traded from Charlotte to Cleveland before being acquired by the Celtics in a late-September trade that landed him in Boston, along with John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy, while Keith Bogans was sent to the Cavaliers.

As a senior at Stanford, Powell was named All-Pac-12 First Team while averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was also named Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Jae Crowder’s confidence and contribution on the rise

Practice Report: Jae Crowder

Mavs F Jae Crowder weighs in on how well the bench has been playing recently, the rest they are able to provide Dirk and the starters, the importance of every game down the stretch and more.

While the Mavericks haven’t been able to take complete advantage of the longest homestand in franchise history, losing three nail-biters that came down to the final seconds, the team’s lengthy stay in Dallas has been very kind to one player in particular: forward Jae Crowder.

The wing has found inconsistent playing time all season, as Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has given the backup small forward minutes both to Crowder and teammate Wayne Ellington throughout the season. During one stretch in late February it was Ellington who received the coach’s nod, and Crowder played just three combined minutes in five games.

However, the playing time pendulum has swung back The Beast’s way, and Crowder has deserved every second of playing time he’s been getting. During the last five games, Crowder is averaging 8.8 points per game on 64 percent shooting from the field, including a blistering 61.5 percent clip from beyond the arc. Prior to those five contests, Crowder had made just four field goals combined since Feb. 21.

“He’s playing hard and he’s gotten his shooting in a better rhythm,” Carlisle said before the Mavericks faced off against the Clippers Thursday night. “Now he’s just reacting out there. I think when you get into struggles shooting the ball, you start thinking too much. That can affect how hard you’re playing. This is a hard game to play when you’re distracted at all.”

Simply put, the Mavericks are better when Crowder is on the floor, as they allow just 99.6 points per 100 possessions, the best on the team, and they outscore opponents by 11.1 points per 100. That difference is the highest mark on the team by nearly two full points (Devin Harris sits in second place) and 4.4 points ahead of third-place Brandan Wright. When Crowder is in the game, the ball flies around the floor, as it did Thursday night against the Clippers, particularly in the second quarter. In that game, Crowder’s plus-minus was a team-best +17 in just 19 minutes.

Those numbers do not go unnoticed by NBA coaches and fellow teammates. While Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis have probably been the team’s two most valuable players this season, Crowder’s impact on games — when he’s playing well — is undeniable. But after such a long period of inconsistent minutes and poor shooting, how’d he get back on track?

“I shot with Dirk a few times,” Crowder said. “He just told me when I get air underneath the ball, it looked good. He has faith in my jumper, and that’s one thing that he’s told me and it stuck with me. When I get air underneath the ball, good things happen.”

That’s a fairly simple adjustment for a professional basketball player to make. Many young players tend to let their offensive successes and failures affect other aspects of their game. While that might not be the case with Crowder, it’s difficult to argue with the evidence: Dallas is 20-11 this season when Crowder shoots 50 percent or higher from the field, and he’s played at least 12 minutes in all but three of those games. Although his imprint on games might not run as deep as those Nowitzki or Ellis make, when Crowder is on, the Mavericks are on.

So what’s he got to do to keep this run going? As Mavs great Rolando Blackman famously said, it’s all about confidence.

“Be aggressive,” he said. “Take the shots, and don’t worry about make or miss, because I know I can shoot the ball. Just take the shots.”

Mavs anxiously awaiting summer development of rookie class

DALLAS — After suffering through a sub-par season by their own standards, the Dallas Mavericks were forced to head out on summer vacation early while missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

But for the Mavs’ rookies and young contributors, this summer will be anything but a vacation.

Rallying back from 10 games below .500 on Jan. 9 to break even with a .500 record at 41-41 on the season, the Mavericks took very little positive out of the 2012-13 campaign. Still, after seeing the quick development of two second-round selections in last summer’s NBA Draft, the Mavs did see encouraging signs and building blocks for the future.

“Even to get back to .500 we (messed) up another 10 games. You know, we should have been a whole lot better. There’s just no satisfaction from this season whatsoever. None, but I mean, it was nice to see some of the rookies play,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.

Playing in 78 games and making 16 starts, forward Jae Crowder led the youth movement for the Mavs despite being the team’s third and final draft-day acquisition with the No. 34 overall selection. Still, after getting off to a scorching-hot start, the first-year pro would admittedly hit a wall, finishing the season shooting just 38.4 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from 3-point range while averaging 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 17.3 minutes an outing.

Meanwhile, the pick right before Crowder also showed promise as center Bernard James became a valuable contributor for the team in the interior while appearing in 46 outings and making 11 starts himself.

Playing less than 10 minutes a game when called upon and entering the league as a 27-year-old rookie, the 6-foot-10 James averaged just 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds during his first season, but he would connect on 51.5 percent from the field while becoming an occasional force at both ends of the floor inside. Now, along with late-season pickup Josh Akognon and first-round selection Jared Cunningham, who played a total of just 26 minutes in eight games during his rookie year, the Mavs will look to see if any of their young contributors are able to step up their games while leading the charge in the Las Vegas Summer League July 12-22.

“This is a big summer for (Cunningham),” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Crowder and Bernard James both I thought did a terrific job for us. Their maturity was evident, because they were able to step in. And during one stretch of the season we had two second-round picks in our rotation, which is a challenging situation but I thought they handled it well and they both got better, so there’s some positives there. Akognon we have under contract. He’ll be with us in the summer and in training camp next year. That’s the way the plan is right now, and I view him also as an intriguing prospect.”

“We’re going to want to see Jared at summer league and hopefully he’ll work hard,” Cuban added. “Jae and Sarge [James] both showed a lot. If Jae can get to a point where he can get a knockdown jumper, he’s got such a great array and energy that he’s going to be a great player in this league. I don’t like his step-back threes, but other than that hopefully he’ll learn to avoid those. Sarge is a quick second jumper. He’s got to learn to grab the ball instead of just tip the ball, have more confidence around the basket and get a little bigger. … I think Jae showed a lot of promise. Sarge did, too. You know, we didn’t get to see Jared. We’ll see him in summer league, so I’d say a lot of the promise is knowing that we got some guys in the draft who are NBA players, and so I’m looking forward to seeing how they improve over the summer and how hard they work.”

Crowder gets crash course in professionalism during rookie season

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.”