EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Jae Crowder receives some cheers, boos from Suns fans in Phoenix return
PHOENIX — It wasn’t obvious what to expect as far as a reception from the crowd when Jae Crowder checked in for the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, his first game in Phoenix since he was traded by the Suns, a 116-104 Bucks win.
Crowder and Phoenix agreed to have the veteran forward sit out and work together to find a trade partner right before training camp. Whether it was over his starting spot, a contract extension or something else going on in the locker room, the reasoning was never shared publicly and reports suggested some mix of the three.
The 56 games he did not play did not go over well with some in the fanbase, and you can understand its frustration.
Then again, there’s how instrumental Crowder was in Phoenix turning into a contender. He helped teach the younger core how to win, especially on defense. He threw the Valley-Oop in Game 2 of the 2021 Western Conference Finals. He was arguably the team’s second-best player in the 2021 NBA Finals.
And most importantly, he gave it his all every time he was out there and played with a chip while backing down to no one. That is ultimately why he turned into a fan favorite and why Suns players said they supported Crowder when asked about him during the season.
So it made sense on Tuesday to hear the crowd be a bit mixed. A few boos came during a tribute video but there were mostly solid cheers as he was shown on the big screen and waved to the crowd.
Shortly after that, he was subbed in, and it was mostly boos. I’m guessing it varied based on where you were sitting but it certainly wasn’t an overwhelming response in either direction.
And mostly boos as he checks in pic.twitter.com/su7o8jyjtQ
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) March 15, 2023
“Things ended on a bad note so I appreciate the love and I appreciate the applause I got tonight,” Crowder said postgame after saying pregame he didn’t really know what to expect. He also noted how great it was to see a bunch of familiar faces around the arena, like ushers and such.
Crowder pregame declined to speak on anything from the past but did not have anything bad to say when he spoke on it during his introduction to Milwaukee shortly after the trade deadline and didn’t want to air dirty laundry.
Since he hadn't spoken on the topic publicly, I gave Jae Crowder the chance to speak on what happened between him and the Suns.
Here was his response: pic.twitter.com/SLWPAZa5Qt
— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) February 13, 2023
Predictably, Crowder made an impact on Tuesday, just like he did in his first time playing against Phoenix two weeks ago. He made his first two shots, both 3s, and the second came near the Suns bench. He pointed at someone on it after the make as he made his way back down the court.
Jae Crowder tings 🤷♂️@Suns || #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/Wj4m9jMQRt
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) March 15, 2023
When Crowder was asked postgame who he was pointing at he paused, laughed and then said, “The bench.”
He also had a one-on-one moment defending Devin Booker at the end of the third quarter that went Booker’s way. There were words exchanged. Of course.
Devin Booker closes Q3 in style! pic.twitter.com/zN4rWHXf9h
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) March 15, 2023
“It’s always fun,” Booker said of competing against Crowder. “He’s a high level competitor. Know what it is. We have experience together, I got a lot of respect for him and we just leave it on the court.”
“Training camp: I want that matchup,” Crowder said of past battles with Booker when they were teammates. “I want him because if I can guard him I can damn near guard anybody in the league. That’s like a glorified practice what you saw. A lot of trash talking, a lot of bumping. But Devin’s a hell of a scorer and if I feel like I can make it tough on him, I can make it tough on a lot of guys.”
Crowder finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. He was a part of Milwaukee’s closing lineup.
Milwaukee is a seamless fit, something Crowder agreed with and said is why he pushed for a move specifically there.
“Think it fit me, I think there’s a need for what I bring to the team and it’s been great so far,” he said pregame.
The Bucks, as we know from the Finals, are a tremendous defensive team that plays a physical brand of basketball. That’s what Crowder does.
“I think he brings just a winning, competitive, high-IQ perspective,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said pregame. “I think defensively and offensively, he just understands what goes into winning. Makes winning plays that may or may not show up on the stat sheet. And just a human. Guys love him, he’s fit in our locker room great. He’s got a voice, a leadership — we feel really fortunate to have him.”
Something Crowder was praised for in Phoenix was how advanced he was in regards to picking up defensive coverages. Budenholzer has already seen that in the 11 games Crowder has played.
“Sometimes he’s doing what we’re supposed to be doing (that) other guys that have been here for five years aren’t doing,” Budenholzer joked. “He’s on point, he’s sharp. The attention to detail is very much there and very much appreciated.”
Crowder, as you would expect, said he’s focused on being a sponge.
“First of all, just pay attention to what they have going on,” he said. “Obviously I played against these guys, I know their scheme a little bit and getting some terminology down. Just paying attention and watching a lot of film.”
As far as where his conditioning was at, Crowder said after his first week he felt good to go.
He confirmed he’s happy to be past everything and has moved on.
“I just flip the chapter,” Crowder said. “I just flipped and just turned to another one and enjoying the journey of whatever this one holds.”