Speaking publicly for the first time since criticizing Boston fans for cheering Jazz star Gordon Hayward, Celtics forward Jae Crowder on Thursday reined in some of his comments made during a Twitter spat, but maintained that his primary message had not changed.
“Obviously I don’t want to leave Boston,” Crowder said. “Obviously, I love it here. Obviously, the fans have treated me great. No doubt about that.
“I still stand behind what I said about how I felt disrespected when they’re cheering for Gordon Hayward. I live with that. I stand behind that 100 percent as a man, as a basketball player who puts my time away from my family into it.”
There were some sparse cheers for Hayward at TD Garden during introductions prior to the Celtics’ win over the Jazz Tuesday night. Hayward, who played for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler, could become a free agent at season’s end. And if that happens, Boston could be a potential landing spot.
But Crowder, who plays the same position as Hayward, viewed those cheers as a slight to him. He made that clear during postgame interviews, and then the situation escalated a bit when his frustrations boiled over on Twitter.
He initially posted that he did not like hearing the fans cheer for Hayward, then got involved with some back-and-forth with fans. When one told Crowder to “love it or leave it,” he responded that he would have no problem leaving it.
HOME TEAM FANS CHEERING FOR THE OPPOSING PLAYERS NOW.. AW MAN OK... SMH BUT GOOD WIN FELLAS ONTO THE NEXT ONE.!!— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) January 4, 2017
Crowder later deleted his interactions with fans; he said Thursday he was instructed to do so by the Celtics staff.
“I was really angry after the game, obviously,” Crowder said. “I said what I had to say after the game. I probably should have left it right there. I went on Twitter and said what I had to say and that’s one thing that I regret going back and forth with fans on Twitter. That’s how I was feeling at the time.”
Some Celtics fans have made a habit of cheering for potential free agents or trade targets during the players’ visits to Boston over the past two seasons. It happened last year with Kevin Durant and, to a lesser extent, with Al Horford. And this season they have cheered for Kings center DeMarcus Cousins and now Hayward.
Crowder said he has never understood or accepted hearing cheers for a player on an opposing team. He said that when he arrived via trade two years ago and the Celtics were struggling, fans were all-in on supporting Boston, and Boston only. Perhaps now that the team is ascending and visions of championships are being rekindled, luring these stars feels more tangible.
“Things have changed since [the team was losing],” Crowder said. “I’m aware of that. [But] that’s never happened in an arena that I’ve been in. I’ve never been on the road and got cheered for, or even one of my teammates get cheered for by the opposing team.
“It’s just something different for me that really set me off. I don’t like when they cheer for DeMarcus Cousins and I don’t like when they cheer for Kevin Durant. I don’t think you should do that.”
Crowder has spoken to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Stevens about the Hayward matter. Both know that Crowder wears his emotions on his sleeve, and that is part of what has made him so effective here. On Tuesday, coincidence or not, he made his first five 3-point attempts while he was stewing about the love for Hayward.
“He’s been great and he’s embraced everything that we talk about how important it is to play the right way here in Boston, to be a good teammate, to play with maximum effort,” Stevens said. “And he’s embraced what I think Celtics fans appreciate. He’s been a good example of that. And, as we said, he reacted the way he reacted, but we’ll move forward.”
In the end, Crowder offered an apology to the fans while also hoping they see his side of this issue.
“I really appreciate everything y’all have done for me,” he said, speaking to the fans. “You have to understand that was a little heat of the moment with those tweets. I really apologize for them. But I really do hope you guys understand where I’m coming from with the whole cheer for the opposing team.”
. . .
Celtics center Tyler Zeller, who was hospitalized for two nights this week because of a sinus infection, has returned to the team but did not practice Thursday. Forward Jordan Mickey (illness) and James Young (ankle) both missed practice, too.