SALT LAKE CITY — Jonas Jerebko was on the road with the Utah Jazz at a local Nike store with Jae Crowder when his wife, Johanna, called him with some cool news in early February.
“Jae’s wife just hit me up and I think they’re moving in next door,” Johanna told Jonas.
Jerebko then turned to Crowder to confirm it with the new Jazz member.
“Jae, did you just check out a house over there?” he asked Crowder.
“Yeah,” Crowder said.
“That’s my neighbor’s house, you better get it,” Jerebko urged him.
“Yeah, I’m going to get it,” he said.
And that’s how the former Boston Celtics teammates learned they would become next-door neighbors as Jazz players in the beautiful mountains of Salt Lake City.
“He helped me get acclimated with the city a little bit, helped me find a place, so I knew I could depend on him once I got out here,” Crowder said of Jerebko.
Jerebko and Crowder spent three seasons together in Boston from 2014-17 and will team up again to face their former franchise at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Vivint Arena.
Both were members of the Celtics team that lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals and are trying to make another deep run like that in these playoffs. Crowder was acquired in a three-team deal before the trade deadline while Jerebko signed on as a free agent in July and is making an impact on the squad as a solid role player.
“I think we can. We’ve got confidence in ourselves,” Jerebko said. “We know we can beat any team in this league. We’ve got to make the playoffs first but in the playoffs you’ve got to lose four times out of seven and I don’t see a lot of teams beating us four out of seven, so we’re going to come in with confidence and take it game by game.”
Utah (42-32) is currently No. 7 in the Western Conference standings while Boston sits in the East’s No. 2 spot but won't be playing with All-Star guard Kyrie Irving (knee) and Marcus Smart (right thumb).
Wednesday’s game will feature a showdown of some of the league’s best defensive teams. Boston enters the game with the top defensive rating (101.2) while the Jazz hold the third-best defensive rating (102.0) anchored by center Rudy Gobert.
“It’s an important game for the playoff picture, with what this team wants to accomplish, and this is an important game for that reason,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “And I think our fans understand that. They want us to win so that we can keep playing."
Jazz forward Jae Crowder talks about facing his former Boston Celtics team tomorrow. “We want to get this win,” Crowder said. pic.twitter.com/sAZvAZk3lR— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 28, 2018
Win or lose, the outcome won’t affect the bond shared between Crowder and Jerebko. They do everything from meeting for dinner to playing cards and even throw in some friendly bets here and there.
“I even told him before when I was talking to him when he was in Cleveland and they were playing some rough basketball to watch, I was like ‘man, we could use you over here. We need a guy like you,’” Jerebko said. “It started off there and soon as he got traded, I texted him ‘great to have you’ and he was like ‘I’m on my way.’”
The rest is history as Crowder continues to prove him right while averaging 12.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in his first 19 games with the Jazz as a solid reserve off the bench.
When he looks over his shoulder during games, he knows he has a guy he can depend on, which gives him even more confidence.
“No doubt. His level of engagement as a friend has never wavered,” Crowder said of Jerebko. “It’s always been the same whether we win, lose, play a lot of minutes, doesn’t play a lot of minutes, it’s just his friendship never wavers, and that’s pretty big at this level.”