From all the way across country, erstwhile Phoenix Suns starting forward Jae Crowder shared some thoughts with B/R reporter Chris Haynes again.
“I am thankful my teammates appreciated my leadership,” Jae shared, via text to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. He says he’s been in contact with all the players, and Haynes got Mikal Bridges to share his own thoughts on the situation.
“That’s one of our leaders,” Bridges told Haynes. “I texted him not too long ago and told him how much I miss him. That’s my guy. It’s the NBA. It happens. I know he wants to be here, but it’s the league. That’s just how it is sometimes. This is my fifth year in the league, and I understand how it could be. You’ve got to protect yourself sometimes. We’ll love to have him here, but we get it.”
“I’ve spoken to every player that I’ve played with on that team and they all have stressed how much they miss [me] and respect my decision, and I’m thankful for their understanding,” Crowder told B/R via text message. “This move of pushing me out the door was a blindsided hit to not only me but my teammates, as you can see from speaking to them and myself and the conversations we’ve had behind closed doors.”
A @BleacherReport Exclusive: Jae Crowder has support of Pheonix Suns teammates as he expresses frustration with how things got here: “I'm confused and hurt my coaches didn't appreciate the things I brought to our team and organization.” https://t.co/KmuqoqpvKt— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) January 13, 2023
Protect yourself? He’s got a fully guaranteed contract for the 2022-23 season, so that protection could only be referencing future contract years.
Pushed out the door? He’s still being paid $10.1 million by the Phoenix Suns this season. He was a starter through last year’s playoffs. I can’t imagine the Suns coaching staff deciding they simply didn’t want to see him on the court again in a Suns uniform.
Jae is in the 3rd year of a 3-year contract signed with the Suns in 2020, and will be an unrestricted free agent in July 2023.
Jae says he’s “confused and hurt my coaches didn’t appreciate the things I brought to our team and organization.”
The coaches’ disrespect must have come after the end of the season.
And the only way I can wrap my head around it is that they decided Cameron Johnson would become the starter in 2022-23 while Jae moved to the bench. The Suns made that clear as early as July 1, and in training camp Cam Johnson expressed his understanding that Jae would be hurt by that.
Cam was asked about Jae at the start of camp.
“That’s the thing that you learn most in the NBA that guys will do what’s best for them. To a certain extent, guys should,” Johnson said. “There’s no bad blood between Jae and I. Jae has looked out for me over the past couple of years. At the end of the day, I feel it’s just business. It’s him trying to do what’s best for his career.”
To date, Chris Haynes is the only reporter to communicate directly with Crowder. Three months ago, Crowder used Chris Haynes to claim — during a TNT broadcast of Suns vs. Warriors — that his holdout was not related to being demoted from the starting unit.
Now, in this week’s conversation with Haynes, he says “And this has nothing to do with financial or contract differences.”
So if it’s not about starting, and not about an extension, what’s it about then?
And why not show up to camp? At least one-third of the league becomes a free agent every single summer. At least half the league’s players make less than Crowder’s $10.1 million this season, the 3rd year of a 3-year contract he signed with the Suns in the 2020 offseason.
“This move of pushing me out the door was a blindsided hit to not only me but my teammates,” Crowder says.
Weird is getting weirder.