Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler, a potential All-Star, had nothing but compliments for his former Marquette teammate, Jae Crowder. The two played together for one season with the Golden Eagles and Crowder, the Celtics’ starting small forward, left quite an impression on the older Butler.
“I think we pride ourselves on toughness and being an underdog,” Butler said Friday prior to Chicago’s 119-103 win at TD Garden. “It’s just how hard we work and I think that has a lot to do with it. He’s a junior college guy just like I’m a junior college guy, so a different path, but we’re still here.”
Butler said he tried to influence Crowder with his work ethic. Butler was selected 30th overall by Chicago in the 2011 NBA Draft. Crowder was selected 34th overall a year later by Cleveland and promptly traded to Dallas.
“You show by your work, what you do on the court,” Butler said. “You can talk about all you want and I think he started to buy into that. When he bought into it fully, he became the player that he became. I would probably say he had a better college career than I had — Big East Player of the Year, nobody has done that at Marquette in a while. The guy, he’s really, really talented. He does so many things well at both ends of the floor.
“This is a great opportunity for him here. I think he’s really going to help this team win a lot of games.”
Butler said that because Crowder arrived at Marquette as the national junior college player of the year while at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, he may have felt entitled in his early days.
“He came in thinking, ‘Aww, I’m going to be the man,’ and it’s tough,” Butler said. “It’s kind of like first getting into the NBA when you’re the star on your college team and coming in thinking you’re going to be the man. Nah kid, there’s been guys . . . doing this for eight-plus years. They already put the time in, so you’ve got to take a back seat and learn the ropes first.
“That’s how he started. He bought into the work. The rest shows for itself.”
Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: “Those guys that come out of Marquette have really all done well. The way that Wesley Matthews [of Portland] has improved. We’ve seen Jae’s improvement just from being here and getting the opportunity and Jimmy might be the most improved guy in the league. Those guys are good players.”
Sitting this pick out
Stevens, who is from the Indianapolis area, was asked Friday for his prediction for Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the Colts and Patriots. He took the diplomatic approach.
“I grew up for 33 years in Indianapolis, so I have a lot of friends there and if I say the wrong team, they’ll all be mad at me,” he said. “And I work here [in Boston] and if I say the wrong thing, they’ll be mad at me.
“I’ve gotten a kick out of listening to both sides of the coin talk about their hatred for the other from a fandom standpoint because I know a lot of people in each organization and it’s sad some of those people have to lose. But those organizations are a lot alike, I hate to break that to everybody. So now I made everybody mad.”
Stevens said he has exchanged text messages with Patriots coach Bill Belichick during his coaching tenure.
Seeing new faces
The Celtics will welcome two new additions in Los Angeles this weekend. Tayshaun Prince, acquired from Memphis in the Jeff Green deal, will meet with the team, although it remains uncertain if he will ever wear a Celtics uniform. The Celtics and Prince’s representatives have discussed a buyout but nothing is imminent.
Shavlik Randolph, who played 16 games for the Celtics in 2012-13, is expected to be added to the roster before Sunday’s game with the Clippers. Randolph is expected to remain on the team for the time being.
“He’s a guy that people just love having on their team,” Stevens said.
“He adds to the way teams play. Everybody we talked to in our organization feels that way.”
When asked if Prince could play a leadership role, Stevens said, “He’s got a lot of experience. He’s got a lot of winning experience. A guy like that is welcomed to share his thoughts.”
Young takes seat
The Celtics were without rookie James Young, who sat out with flu-like symptoms that also caused him to miss Thursday’s practice. Stevens said if Young is not over his illness, he won’t travel with the team Saturday to Los Angeles, instead rejoining the team later on the six-game road trip. Jared Sullinger was also battling an illness but scored 20 points in 29 minutes Friday . . . An MRI on Evan Turner’s right thumb showed only bruising. He logged a team-high 34 minutes, with 11 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.