A disclaimer to all free-agents-to-be: There could be an in-home visit in your future this summer. Or a FaceTime call. Or a text message. And one of the primary recruiters could be Jae Crowder, Utah’s in-your-face forward who welcomes all trash-talkers and, like all Jazz fans, wants to see his team upgrade at necessary positions this offseason.
Crowder said he isn’t going to shy away from selling Salt Lake City and the Jazz’s long-term vision to his inner-circles around the NBA in the coming months.
“I’ve got a lot of friends obviously in the NBA — I’ll recruit,” Crowder said at Jazz exit interviews last week. “I’m going to do my job, obviously, with that and hopefully try and bring some top-level players here to help us win. I’m definitely going to do my part and that’s talking to guys and telling them what the organization and what the team is all about. I’m with it, 100%.”
Summertime is decompression time for NBA players. Social media posts will showcase its stars globetrotting, making fans envious of the lavish lifestyle updates that are certain to come. It’s also when the landscape of the league can change in a single tweet or Player’s Tribune piece. Nerves don’t necessarily wane as the temperatures rise. This year’s free agency class is loaded with All-NBA talent and plenty of other pieces, according to salary cap and league experts, could be perfect fits to help this young Jazz team rise to join that next tier of Western Conference contenders.
Since he burst onto the scene last year, Jazz star Donovan Mitchell hasn’t shied away publicly from saying he’ll do his best to sway potential free agents to give Utah a chance. Same with Rudy Gobert. Crowder wants to do his best to help out, too. Asked to detail his potential recruiting pitch, Crowder said the Jazz ethos of selflessness is close to that of Golden State’s, a team-first approach to winning games, no matter the hero.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can win, we’ve got a good group of guys who really get along with one another, who buys into the team,” Crowder said. “In this locker room, it’s very special, because nobody is worried about touches, nobody’s worried about scoring or getting shots and stuff like that. We just play. We play free and we play together.”
In order to play more free, however, upgrades are necessary. That much has been proved in the past two postseason exits, both at the hands of the Houston Rockets. Utah needs more pinpoint shooters, more dynamic playmakers who can create off the dribble and probably needs at least a couple of adds in that vein to have a say against the Rockets and Warriors moving forward.
Crowder said one of his offseason goals is to evolve himself. The 6-foot-6 forward wants to improve on his individual playmaking abilities, for himself and for his teammates. The league, he explained, is getting smaller and faster, demanding more out of every single position on the floor to do more than ever before. Being able to prove to Jazz coach Quin Snyder that he’s capable could only help solidify his already-featured role on the team.
“I’ll do my part to be one of those guys,” he said.
Since the Jazz acquired Crowder last year, his transition into the tight-knit group has been seamless. He quickly became part of Snyder’s rotation a year ago and that continued as the Jazz won 50 regular-season games in 2018-19.
“From playing Jae before he was here, you knew what he brought and what he stood for,” Jazz forward Joe Ingles said. “He brings that same energy every night. Not in a bad way; he makes you listen to him. Why wouldn’t you listen to a guy that has been through what he’s been through in his career and done what he’s done?”
Crowder’s magnificent Game 4 performance against the Rockets gave the Jazz a fighting chance in the first-round series. He further endeared himself to the fan base by his desire to stand up to stars like James Harden and Chris Paul.
“There’s a big difference with the team when he’s playing at a high level with that energy and that confidence and aggressiveness and getting T’d up and all that,” Ingles said. “It helps our team in a big way.”
And Crowder’s offseason goal will be to join the Jazz contingency on finding more ideal fits, ones that could change the complexion of the future with a young core that needs more talent to reach its full potential.