LAS VEGAS — With his NBA career at a crossroads, Allen Crabbe was committed to getting better.
That commitment was pushed to the limit one night during the summer between Crabbe’s second and third seasons in the league, when his best friend, trainer and roommate, Casey Trujeque, wanted him to get up at the crack of dawn to attend a grueling Bikram Yoga class.
Crabbe thought he was going to have the following day off, but Trujeque changed his mind, leading to an argument at the dinner table.
“Who in their right mind would wake up at 5 a.m. to go to Bikram Yoga?” Trujeque loosely recalls Crabbe saying.
“A kid trying to make $80 million would,” Trujeque replied angrily before leaving the table and going to his room.
Trujeque did not set his alarm clock, figuring Crabbe would be sleeping in. But come 5 a.m., Trujeque received a knock on his door.
“Allen said, “Casey, let’s go,'” Trujeque recalled. “And right then and there I was like ‘Allen’s going to be successful.’ He really wants this.”
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Crabbe laughed upon having the story relayed to him.
“I got up and did it because when you do things you don’t want to do, you’re going to reap those benefits in the end,” Crabbe said. “That’s the only way you can get better: getting comfortable by doing things that are uncomfortable.”
After falling into the second round of the 2013 draft and barely playing in his first two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Crabbe worked out five times a week with Trujeque during the summer of 2015 — and he used that rigorous workout regimen as a springboard to post a career year in which he averaged 10.3 points and shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range in 81 games.
The 24-year-old restricted free-agent’s reward: a staggering four-year, $75 million offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets, which the Blazers matched on Sunday to keep him in Portland.
Not bad for a guy who had made all of $2.6 million in his first three seasons combined.
“It’s a reward for working hard, staying patient and trusting the process,” said Crabbe, who switched agents before the free-agency process began and also received interest from the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.
“I could’ve given up, but I did everything that the organization asked of me and just waited my turn. Once we had all those roster changes, I knew there was going to be an opportunity, and I just made sure I didn’t miss out on it.”
For Crabbe, the new deal was worth a career of ups-and-downs.
Crabbe and Trujeque met on the AAU travel circuit in Los Angeles when they were in eighth grade, and the duo ended up becoming teammates at Price High School. From there, their paths diverged — with Crabbe going on to star at California and Trujeque getting injured at Montana State and quitting basketball to focus on training athletes — but they always remained in close contact.
After Crabbe fell to No. 31 in the draft — largely due to a right foot injury he suffered during a pre-draft workout with the New York Knicks — and his rights were acquired by the Blazers, Crabbe asked Trujeque to move to Portland with him on the advice of his former agent.
Early on, it was a struggle. Crabbe played just 15 games as a rookie, sitting on the bench in a suit rather than a jersey most nights, and all the DNP-CDs made him question whether he could ever make it.
He played more his second year, but barely. If he was going to remain in the NBA, Year 3 would be crucial. Crabbe committed to working out with Trujeque in Portland rather than going back to L.A. like usual. The duo did three workouts per day: ball-handling, a weight-lifting and game-situations sessions. And yes, occasionally there was the Bikram Yoga sessions, too.
Crabbe constantly practiced coming off pin-downs and working out of pick-and-rolls. He became more consistent with his one- and two-dribble pull-up jumpers. He played well in Summer League and with Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo all leaving, plenty of minutes opened up in the Blazers rotation.
Playing behind starters Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Crabbe was able to have a significant impact off the bench. He hit 53.5 percent of his shots from 10-16 feet and 44.9 percent of his shots from 16 feet-3-point arc, according to basketball-reference.com.
Crabbe was going to be the starter in Brooklyn, something he was looking forward to. But in Portland, he’ll likely continue in a reserve role while playing in a system he’s extremely comfortable in. He just wants to prove he’s worth every penny the Blazers gave him.
“It’s definitely not the time to chill, take a break or relax because I got the contract I wanted,” Crabbe said. “For me as a basketball player, it’s important to live up to those expectations and prove that this contract wasn’t a fluke or that they wasted all this money they’ve invested in me.”
His mentality — the same one that enabled him to wake up for that Bikram Yoga class at 5 a.m. — should certainly help.
“I always feel like I’ve been the underdog and had to prove myself year after year,” Crabbe said.
“Things weren’t handed to me at all. And I really had to work behind the scenes in order to get to where I’m at now.”