It’s not common to see a second-round draft pick start on opening night. The rare occurrence took form for Jae Crowder as injuries propelled him into the starting lineup in the Dallas Mavericks' season-opening victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. That was the start of an eventful rookie year.
Producing 5.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 17.3 minutes in his rookie season and doing whatever was asked of him, Crowder was able to stay in the rotation for good chunks of the year and play the shooting guard, small and power forward positions.
“He played three positions for us last season,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We see him as being able to bump around all those positions again. He’s a real important guy for the versatility of our team.”
The summer heading into a player’s second season is seen by many as the most critical portion of a career in terms of development. They now have experience on their side and can alter their workout routine to put themselves in a better position to succeed.
When it came to the offseason, Carlisle gave Crowder one specific challenge: lose some weight.
“We’ve challenged him to drop some weight,” Carlisle said. “He’s dropped about 15 pounds in the last the month and a half. That’s great. We think that’s going to help his mobility.”
Older veterans such as Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter have been able to extend their careers by keeping weight off and staying lean. Carlisle wanted to ensure that Crowder would get into that habit early in his career. To his credit, Crowder answered that challenge and heads into the summer league with a leaner look.
Crowder had the recognition to know that by losing the extra weight, he improved his chances to see more time on the floor in his second year.
“Whatever gets me on the court, I’ll do it,” Crowder said. “I just want to be a better all-around player, and I feel like I’ve put myself in a good position to do that.”
Everyone tries to do his part in being fit and it’s not an easy mission to accomplish. Carlisle recognizes that and it showed him something in regards to Crowder.
“It showed me that he’s a disciplined kid that can bear down and do something like that,” Carlisle said. “It’s not easy to lose 15 pounds.”
Losing weight isn’t going to turn Crowder into the next superstar in the NBA, but it shows a level of commitment that can be extrapolated to further continue his overall development. With a roster that is still taking shape, the Mavs will need everyone to step up.
“Jae is a gamer,” Carlisle said. “He’s a guy that’s going to be a factor on our roster.”
While his waistline might be shrinking, it’s possible his role could expand.