After a heart-to-heart meeting with Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle this past summer, Jae Crowder knows he can just relax and play basketball.
Crowder could become a free agent next summer. That business side of the game definitely concerns players such as Crowder, who doesn’t know if they’ll leave.
But for now, those are not Crowder’s worries — especially with the Mavericks preparing to open preseason play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at American Airlines Center against the Houston Rockets.
“I had a meeting with Carlisle about two months ago in Vegas,” Crowder said. “We had dinner at a steakhouse and the one thing he told me is don’t worry about [free agency] — that’s going to take care of itself.
“Especially if we’re winning, it’s going to take care of itself. Just keep playing the same way.”
Now entering his third and possibly make-or-break season with the Mavericks, Crowder gave Carlisle’s squad some defensive pressure and an occasional offensive burst off the bench last year. But they expect much, much more this season from the 6-foot-6 forward from Marquette.
“I was talking to the guys this morning about him,” center Tyson Chandler said after Monday’s practice. “He’s going to be such a key piece to our success, especially later on in the year being that guy that comes in and locks down, makes it tough for opposing teams’ scorers, being gritty, getting in the paint and creating extra possessions.
“He’s one of those glue guys that can do all of the little things. I think it’s our job just to kind of help him come along.”
Crowder admits his shooting accuracy and range must improve if he wants to get significant playing time. In 78 games last season, he averaged 4.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per contest, and shot 43.9 percent from the field and .33.1 percent from 3-point range.
“I’ve got to have consistency in my shooting and I need to work on my body, and of course, I’m trying to be a better athlete and trying to be bigger, faster and stronger,” Crowder said. “I don’t want to have any lapses.”
With Shawn Marion and Vince Carter now with Cleveland and Memphis via free agency, extra playing time is available.
“I think Crowder is going to keep getting better,” Carlisle said. “And you’ve got to have a system where younger guys are getting better.”
Crowder hasn’t forgotten the summer meeting.
“He said, ‘You bring the same things you’ve always brought, and that’s energy and that’s knocking down shots and that’s guarding the best offensive player on the other team each and every night.’ So I look forward to doing that. I look forward to getting better with this team and trying to win games,” Crowder said.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki sat out Monday’s practice and will miss Tuesday’s game with a right hip contusion.
Nowitzki suffered the injury early in the second half of Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage at AAC.
“It’s not considered serious,” Carlisle said. “But we’re going to give it a day or two and see what’s what.”
Rockets at Mavericks
7:30 tonight, American Airlines Center
Radio: ESPN /103.3 FM