LAS VEGAS — Training camp isn’t slated to begin until sometime in September for the Utah Jazz.
But when Jae Crowder glanced to his left and right on the sidelines of Cox Pavilion Sunday, he found himself in the middle of six other teammates for a Utah Jazz-New York Knicks Summer League game.
That hasn't been the case at any other point of his professional basketball career.
“This the first time I’ve ever been in Vegas or anywhere in the offseason in July with this many of my teammates,” Crowder told the Deseret News. “It’s the first time of my career so it speaks volume of my teammates and what we’re about.”
Crowder took a break from his offseason training in Miami to enjoy some Sin City Summer League action this week. The past six months have been extremely fast-paced for Crowder since he was traded from Cleveland to Utah as part of a three-team deal on Feb. 8.
He eventually worked himself into the rotation with his tough style and knockdown shooting as the Jazz made a second-round playoff run, but had to learn certain plays and terminology on the fly in such a short period.
Crowder would boost his scoring average from 8.6 to 11.8 points in those 27 Jazz games after spending the first 53 next to LeBron James as a Cavalier. Utah would also blossom into one of the league’s toughest teams on defense, fueled by Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert. Crowder turned out to be a great addition as he would often finish games once he grew comfortable, too, but he still thinks about times where he could’ve been better individually in certain moments.
“I’m still processing a lot of stuff,” Crowder said. “I still think about the last season a little bit, so I’m still in the process of what I want to do as a whole next year and how I want to approach everything.”
Mentally, Crowder says, his mind his clear, and he’s in great physical shape while spending more time with his family without the many demands of the busy NBA schedule taking up most of his days. It also helps that he’s in constant communication with his teammates, even during this time.
In addition to watching Summer League games, some Jazz players also met for workouts in Las Vegas.
“I know having a full training camp under my belt will help me be more comfortable on the basketball court and with my teammates, but it starts now,” Crowder said. “Me seeing the guys in the summer, meeting up with them or whenever we’re in town together, it’s going to help come on the court when it’s time for training camp to get on the court and handle business so it’s been fun to come together and meet up with the guys over the summer. We have a few more trips in mind.”
Seeing the Jazz brass agree to recent deals with most of their playoff core in Ekpe Udoh, Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto was great for Crowder to see, especially in a loaded Western Conference, which will only get better. However, it was also tough to watch his close friend and teammate Jonas Jerebko get waived before signing with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Jerebko and Crowder first developed a close bond as teammates in Boston then became next-door neighbors in the mountains of Salt Lake City as Jazzmen.2 comments on this story
Now as the 2018-19 season approaches, the Jazz are working themselves into game shape. The road will only be tougher, especially with James joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
“At the end of the day, the Western Conference is very tough, obviously, but we have an advantage with the same group of our guys coming back, good core of our guys coming back,” Crowder said. “We know what to do when we get there, we know how to approach it now, and I think we’ll be better once that situation comes if it comes again.”