There’s trouble in the Shamrock Shangri-La, where Celtics players and supporters reside in harmony and are linked in unflinching positivity. Celtics forward Jae Crowder was not a fan of Celtics fans offering prospective Utah Jazz free agent and fellow small forward Gordon Hayward a warm welcome to TD Garden on Tuesday night. Crowder criticized the customers in a postgame interview and online.
After he dropped a season-high-tying 21 points in the Celtics’ 115-104 win on Tuesday, Crowder said he felt the cheering for Hayward was “a sign of disrespect to me from the fans” and he used it for motivation. He also took to Twitter to chastise fans for cheering for opposing players using the text shorthand SMH, which stands for shaking my head. When one antagonist predictably goaded Crowder by tweeting he could love Boston or leave it, Crowder tweeted back in all caps, “I have no problem leaving it.”
As former Patriots safety Brandon McGowan once said to a reporter, “Ain’t nobody disrespecting you, bro — yet.” Ask Pablo Sandoval or Jimmy Hayes what disrespect from local sports fans looks like. Crowder’s shooting aim has been the best of his career this season, but his remarks about Celtics fans were way off the mark. They came off as self-centered and ill-conceived. Savvy Boston basketball fans pledge fealty to the current Celtics, but they realize some enhancements are in order to win a championship.
Hayward, who is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game and has the Jazz playing .600 basketball in the Western Conference, isn’t Kevin Durant, not even close. He’s not a transformative player, but he would aid the cause and take some of the scoring pressure off Isaiah Thomas. Celtics fans also are well aware that Hayward was coach Brad Stevens’s star pupil at Butler. He’s a logical fit.
The good vibrations were about recruiting Hayward, not rejecting Crowder, who wouldn’t have to decamp if Hayward came to Boston. A fan base that has long been promised fireworks was just trying to help facilitate them this summer.
One of the primary draws the Celtics have to lure prospective free agents and disgruntled superstars seeking trades is the passion and loyalty of the Boston sports fan. It certainly isn’t the weather or the nightlife or the opportunity to play with Jonas Jerebko.
There is an almost religious fervor to following sports in the 21st century Hub of Hardware. The fans are the best ambassadors the Celtics have.
Thomas penned a love letter to the Boston sports fan in The Players Tribune, where he expressed his astonishment at the devotion and zealotry of Celtics fans and his appreciation for the Boston Basketball Experience.
You won’t find a more forgiving fan base in town than Celtics fans. This is the same fan base that showered Crowder and his teammates with “Let’s Go Celtics” each of the last two seasons when they’ve been bounced from the playoffs in the first round on their home court.
Those chants resonated in TD Garden in 2015, when the Celtics were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and last April, when the Atlanta Hawks ousted the Green.
That Hawks series was one in which Crowder, battling a tough ankle injury, shot the ball like an unsuspecting fan pulled out of the stands. He shot 31.3 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range. Maybe, Celtics fans should wait until April and the games that really matter to “disrespect” Crowder.
It’s clear that Crowder is a player fueled by slights, real and imagined.
He was vocal about his displeasure with Durant for spurning the Celtics this summer in free agency, calling it “a slap in the face for us.” (Apparently, Celtics fans agreed. KD got booed by the Parishioners of the Parquet when he arrived at TD Garden with the Golden State Warriors.)
Crowder’s fan commentary was just the other side of the sharp edge that makes him so enjoyable to watch. Crowder is tenacious, relentless, and fearless. He is exactly the type of player you enjoy rooting for.
The Celtics have an identity shaped by players who were overlooked, underrated, and underestimated. Crowder and Thomas, a pair of second-round picks who play with chips on their shoulders, embody the team’s never-back-down ethos.
The Celtics’ Us Against the World mentality has suited them well. But this time Crowder took it too far. His fans weren’t trying to disrespect him. They were trying to help the team the only way they can.
It’s obvious that part of Crowder’s issue was whom the fans were courting. Crowder doesn’t think Hayward is a better player than him or an upgrade. He had no problem being part of the Celtics’ contingent that went to the Hamptons to throw rose petals at the feet of Durant, also a small forward.
These Celtics seem to have a hard time focusing on the big picture, Banner No. 18, whether it’s Stevens giving inconsistent minutes to No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown or players having an inflated sense of self-worth earlier in the season that led Thomas to say the Celtics weren’t as good as they thought they were.
There is a reality distortion field on Causeway Street where the Celtics think regular-season success and two playoff appearances have earned them the right to be regarded as one of the league’s elite teams.
If Crowder has an issue with folks wanting to change the composition of the team or with the rampant trade rumors that involve the Celtics and their precious draft picks, then he should take it up with his boss.
Here’s the deal: Celtics president Danny Ainge would rip this team apart if he thought it would get him closer to Banner No. 18.
Celtic lore is loaded with legends. The team hangs banners for one thing and one thing only, championships. You have to have a little more gravitas in Green than Crowder before you can rebuke Boston fans.