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Utah Jazz’s Jae Crowder keeps close ties with college teammate Jimmy Butler amid Minnesota Timberwolves saga

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, right, talks with Boston Celtics' Jae Crowder (99) before a season opening NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, right, talks with Boston Celtics' Jae Crowder (99) before a season opening NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Ahead of the Utah Jazz’s season-opening victory in Sacramento on Wednesday, Oct. 17, Jae Crowder decided to place a FaceTime call to a close friend.

He hit up Jimmy Butler.

“We talked for about 40 minutes on FaceTime,” Crowder told the Deseret News.

Once the news broke of Butler’s trade saga with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Crowder had to check on his former Marquette University teammate to make sure things were OK with him.

“He knows it’s unfair, I know it’s unfair and players know it’s unfair, but at the same time it’s nothing you really can do besides state what you said,” Crowder said of Butler. “I talked to him and he knows that. You can only just play at the end of the day and hopefully the guys in the locker room who you go to war with at night will understand.”

The four-time All-Star reportedly asked to be traded before training camp, then returned to practice in dramatic fashion where he boldly ripped into teammates, coaches and front office executives, according to ESPN.

"You (expletive) need me, Scott,” Butler reportedly yelled at Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden — son of longtime Jazz coach Frank Layden — during his first practice. “You can't win without me."

Butler’s name is still involved in frequent trade rumors, but it doesn't seem to be affecting his on-court production as he’s averaging 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.0 steals through the first seven games.

“It’s really out of your hands with the media and what the perception is to the world, but hopefully the guys in the locker room will understand where you’re coming from and how you feel because that’s what really counts and really matters,” Crowder said.

On the eve of the Jazz’s first matchup against the Timberwolves (3-4) on Wednesday, Crowder is listed as probable after spraining his right ankle during Utah’s 113-104 win in Dallas Sunday.

Against Dallas, Crowder started in the place of Derrick Favors who was sidelined with left knee soreness to post 15 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes before suffering the late injury. He’s averaging 12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists in his seventh season, but also isn’t afraid to challenge guys in practice.

“First of all, he’s really intelligent and very aware,” coach Quin Snyder said. “He also has a work ethic, even in practice, where he holds guys accountable.

“If he needs to say something to them, he does by how hard he goes and with the precision he practices,” he added. “It gives him a platform to lead, I think, because of his competitiveness. When you have a leader that plays with as much passion as he does, it’s infectious.”

Jazz floor general Ricky Rubio spent the first six seasons of his career in Minnesota, and also respects Crowder for standing up for guys in heated moments.

“He’s just a great dude, where he brings the energy every night and you know he’s going to have your back at any given time, so it’s great having him as a teammate,” Rubio said. “He will go to war with you and is a guy you want to go to war with. He brings so much to the team that stats don’t show. He’s a great fit for us.”

Crowder cited those old Marquette University practices, alongside Butler, as the foundation for their hardwood toughness. Even as close as they are, the two were involved in an entertaining postgame “Twitter beef”following a physical Jazz-Timberwolves game on March 2 of last season that Crowder clarified as not serious.

They played at Marquette together during the 2010-11 season that finished 22-15 and reached the East Regional Semifinal in the NCAA Tournament.

“We practiced like that all the time and that’s what molded us and that’s not unfamiliar ground when it comes to that, so I understood where he was coming from and I know he’s capable of doing that, maybe he hasn’t showed it as much in the NBA, but that’s who he is,” Crowder said.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams, center, cheers on players Jimmy Butler (33) and Jae Crowder, right, against Seton Hall in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Marquette coach Buzz Williams, center, cheers on players Jimmy Butler (33) and Jae Crowder, right, against Seton Hall in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
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