Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder is not winning any popularity contests among Los Angeles Lakers fans during the playoffs. A recent clip from Game 4 shows Crowder appearing to slap Kyle Kuzma in the face after contesting a three-point shot. Crowder goes up to attempt to block the shot then follows through by striking Kuzma in the face in what appears to be a separate motion.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was asked if the team had contacted the league about these types of plays during the postseason series. Vogel declined to address the specific play but left the door open for the possibility that the Lakers could be discussing the matter with the NBA.
“We send things off to the league every game all year, but I’m not going to get into the nature of what those communications have looked like in this series,” Vogel told Silver Screen and Roll’s Harrison Faigen.
Crowder Shot Down the Notion That the Suns Are a Dirty Team
There have been other physical plays involving Crowder that have drawn criticism throughout the series. LeBron James had words with Crowder in Game 4 after a particularly hard foul around his shoulders. After the Suns’ Game 4 win, Crowder was asked about the perception that the Suns are a “dirty team.”
“Nah, I don’t feel like we have a need to respond to it,” Crowder explained, per FanSided’s Gerald Bourguet. “They have an opinion, that’s their opinion, and that’s what it is.”
Things have gotten testy between Crowder and James in recent games. The two players have a long history of previous playoff matchups and even had a brief stint together as Cavs teammates. FS1’s Skip Bayless noted James was enjoying taunting Crowder during the Lakers Game 3 win.
“What would possess Jae Crowder to do that?” Bayless said on Twitter. “Once you go kaboom on that heart button, you’ve sent a message that the Lakers were frauds. You cannot tell me LeBron didn’t have a ball last night taunting and clowning Crowder.”
Kuzma Is the Favorite to Start in Place of Davis in Game 5
Kuzma will have an opportunity for revenge as Anthony Davis is expected to miss Game 5. The Lakers forward has a good chance to start in place of Davis with the superstar big man sidelined. Kuzma reflected on what the Lakers need to do if Davis is unable to be in the lineup.
“If A.D. is not out there then we have to play a different style and different brand of basketball,” Kuzma noted, per Lakers Nation. “Not just throw and look at Bron the whole time. Obviously, he’s great in his own right, but for us, we just got to play basketball. If he doesn’t, that just means I have the ball in my hands a little bit more. Whether that be as a scorer or make the right play. … It’s not just go out there and just try to score 30. It’s not that. It’s being out there playing sound being in the right spots. Get my teammates better and when I’m open be aggressive.”