Phoenix Suns: Jae Crowder and Knicks Go Way Back

Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

Recovering from an ankle sprain and returning for the Phoenix Suns last night, swingman Jae Crowder certainly made his presence known during his club’s contest with the New York Knicks. Coming off the bench, Crowder contributed significantly, tallying 18 points while hitting often from beyond the arc.

But although Crowder’s 3-point assault on New York which included six made triples certainly grabbed the NBA’s fourth best defense’s attention, it was a brief altercation with Julius Randle that left fans chatting about the sharpshooter even after the game concluded. With just over two minutes left to play, Randle cut to the basket with Crowder guarding him heavily. But while charging through, Randle more or less shoved Crowder to the ground as RJ Barrett simultaneously knocked down a floater to end the possession.

A technical foul was assessed to Randle shortly after the incident, but Crowder appeared to want more after the play, popping up from the floor and assertively jogging toward Randle before Mikal Bridges caught him during an attempt to settle things down. League officials paused the game to review the eventually confirmed technical foul on Randle, but Crowder continued to display his angst, starring down and briefly shouting in Randle’s direction.

Banter continued after the game as well. While talking with reporters, Randle called Crowder a “frontrunner” and even noted that “everyone in the league knows it.” Despite his statement, Randle then concluded that he’s “not worried” about Crowder.

The entire ordeal mattered very little once considering the game’s outcome, with the Suns up by nearly 20 points at this point. But regardless, it added another segment to Crowder’s growing story regarding issues involved with the Knicks organization.

Last season before the Memphis Grizzlies traded Crowder to Miami, a tussle ensued between him and Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton during another game’s closing moments. With under a minute to play and the Grizzlies up 124-106, Crowder stole the ball on New York’s end of the floor and then proceeded to rise up for a 3-pointer. Clearly taking offense, Payton jetted toward Crowder and shoved him to the floor as he came down from his shot attempt. The former Grizzly jumped up looking to fight back, and league officials were required to break things up.

Then with the Knicks, Marcus Morris also partook in the action, jawing at Crowder as even as everyone else began to settle down. Following the contest, he repeatedly referred to Crowder as “soft” and even called him “very woman-like.”

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has a history with Crowder that dates even further back. Coaching for the Minnesota Timberwolves three years ago, Tibs nearly fought Crowder during his time with the Utah Jazz, needing to be separated during a scrap that started after Jeff Teague body-checked Ricky Rubio. Both Crowder and Thibodeau earned technical fouls.

Also with the Timberwolves during the event, Jimmy Butler took his frustration online regarding Crowder’s near-fight with Thibodeau, to which Crowder responded by stating, “[You] got my phone number and know my home address,” before neglecting to take the conversation any further.

Averaging 9.9 points per game this season, Crowder continues to enjoy his finest 3-point shooting campaign so far during his nine years with the NBA, hitting from beyond the arc at a career high 38.5 percent As a crucial piece necessary for a title-run, the Suns value Crowder very highly not just for his skill set as a player, but also for his presence as a veteran.

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But barring a miracle run to the NBA Finals for the Knicks, Crowder and the Suns no longer need to worry about their eastern conference antagonists, having now played and won both their regular season contests with them. Whether next year or even further into the future though, expect things to stay chippy next time Crowder find himself squaring off against New York, as conflicts such as these rarely end quietly.