Coach Rick Carlisle left open the possibility of starting Dahntay Jones at small forward, but there’s no doubt that Crowder is about to get a lot of minutes for the Mavs.
And there’s little doubt that the rugged rookie, who has averaged 8.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game during Dallas’ 3-1 start, is ready for more responsibility. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Crowder knows his role, which is headlined by replacing Marion as the Mavs’ top wing defender.
“I feel like I still have to play with a lot of heart, a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, a lot of hustle on both ends of the court,” Crowder said. “And let the offense come to me. Don’t try to force anything and play off of those older guys.”
Crowder has been impressive since he reported to Dallas to begin practicing for summer league. By the end of the preseason, it was apparent that the rookie had earned a spot in the rotation, a rarity under Rick Carlisle.
Carlisle said he just wants Crowder to continue being active, playing smart and playing within himself. Crowder proved something to Carlisle again Monday night with his performance after the coach opted not to play the rookie in the first half.
“He didn’t play at all in the first half and was 100 percent ready to go when his name was called in the second half,” Carlisle said. “A lot of times, rookies in those situations, they’ll kind of shut down mentally if they miss a rotation for whatever reason. He was just as ready as he’s ever been.”
Crowder doesn’t have to worry about sitting through the first half for at least the rest of the week. Now the rookie needs to get ready to start.