Jae Crowder took shot after shot during pregame warmups on the floor of Vivint Smart Home Arena. It was a familiar sight for Utah Jazz fans who have gotten to know Crowder over the last few years.
There was one difference: his jersey. But it was a different jersey than the one he wore in December, the last time Crowder was in Salt Lake City.
Then, Crowder was a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. But on Wednesday, he donned a Miami Heat jersey.
“It’s just fun,” Crowder said postgame of coming back to Utah as a Heat player. “It’s part of the league, part of the business that we’re in. It’s fun to compete against those guys. Hell of a team over there. They’re a well-connected team. It was a good battle tonight.”
Crowder scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line in 24 minutes in Miami’s loss to the Jazz. He was traded by Utah in the deal that brought Mike Conley to Salt Lake City, and started 45 games with the Grizzlies before they traded him and former Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala to Miami.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame that Crowder, along with Iguodala, was brought to Miami to inject more veteran leadership into a team that already had Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Udonis Haslem and Meyers Leonard on its roster. He said the move was to help fast track the development of some of the Heat’s young players and “make this season more about now.”
“He’s our kind of guy,” Spoelstra said. “He has our kind of DNA. I think he fit in very well here [in Utah] for similar reasons. We needed that position and a veteran presence, along with Andre.”
In his first two games with the Heat, Crowder averaged 19.5 points per game in 33 minutes off the bench, shooting 56.3% from the 3-point line. On Wednesday night, Crowder finished with 15 points in 24 minutes. He was 5 of 7 from the field and made three 3-pointers.
Spoelstra said Crowder has already made an impact on the defensive end of the floor, helping stabilize the rotation and allowing him to have more defenders on the floor at one time.
He hasn’t been that bad on offense, either.
“He’s a two-way player,” Spoelstra said. “He spaces the floor well for us in our system and we want him to take those kind of 3s.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Crowder gave the team “so much” when he was in Utah. He praised Crowder as a defender, floor-spacer and teammate.
“I’m really grateful to Jae for his contributions here,” Snyder said. “I think he took our team, when we first got him, to another level for a lot of reasons.”
Snyder said it’s Crowder’s defense that makes him special. In addition to perimeter players, he would have Crowder guard the likes of big men Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Crowder’s style of play, which has kept him in the NBA for seven years and counting, is a testament to who he is.
“He knows how to win,” Snyder said. “He likes to compete. There’s nothing that he’s not willing to do.”