Mavericks forward Crowder measures up as invaluable defender

Those basing Jae Crowder’s true value to the Dallas Mavericks on how well he stuffs the stat sheet are obviously looking at the wrong place.

Crowder is not the type of player who fills the stat sheet with 20 points, 10 rebounds or 10 assists. The second-year forward does the bulk of his work on defense — the end of the floor that goes unappreciated by the casual basketball fan.

“I think there’s a reaction to the fact that he hasn’t scored a lot,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “People look and say, ‘Hey, you know he’s not playing very well.’

“But [on Monday against Orlando] he graded out as one of our better guys on defense, so that’s very meaningful.”

In the Mavs’ four preseason games Crowder has only 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in 21.5 minutes per contest. He also has converted only 10 of 25 shots, including 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

Crowder, however, believes his offense will increase with time.

“I’ve just got to find out where exactly my shots are going to come this year again because I’m playing on almost the same rule, but a little different rules, and we have different people on our offense, so it runs a little differently from last year,” Crowder said. “So I’ve just got to feel it out.

“I’m taking these preseason games and trying to watch film and just try to figure it out. It’s a little different, but it’s all the same in the sense of where I get some shots from. Once I find that out everything will come together.”

Carlisle said Crowder is in a tough spot because his offense suffers while he consistently tries to slow down scoring machines such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

“But that’s one of the reasons we like him,” Carlisle said. “He’s one of the best defenders we’ve got.

“He can guard guys that run off screens, he’s a good one-on-one defender, he’s got good size, he can guard different positions, he’s played some [power forward], he’s played some [shooting guard], and he mostly plays [small forward],” Carlisle said. “The flexibility that he gives us is a big plus.”

It’s a big plus that Crowder takes seriously. That’s why he took the initiative over the off-season to try to improve his defensive skills.

“Since I was guarding some of the toughest players in the league last year I got matched up with some of the best scorers in the league,” Crowder said. “So playing defense is one thing I wanted to get better at my second year.”

Crowder, though, wants everyone to know he can still put the ball in the basket. With the Mavs up by five points in Wednesday’s 92-85 win over Indiana, Crowder grabbed a defensive rebound with 1:09 left, then 18 seconds later buried a 19-footer that effectively ended a late rally by the Pacers.

“He’s been playing well defensively, but hasn’t had a lot of stats offensively,” Carlisle said. “But [Wednesday] he made big plays.

“The last shot he made, that jumper was huge. It helped us really put the seal on the game.”