NBA free agency is officially in full swing and with the departure of Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker looking more likely as each day passes, the franchise is making sure they have their bases covered should they lose out on re-signing the veteran defensive stud.
If Tucker walks, the Heat are considered the top team to bring back a familiar face, Phoenix Suns power forward Jae Crowder.
Arizona Sports radio host John Gambadoro tweeted on Wednesday, June 29, “Hearing Javale McGee wants a multi-year deal and has several teams interested – Milwaukee, Dallas, Brooklyn. Not sure if Phoenix would go two years. Miami has emerged as the favorite for Jae Crowder.”
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Crowder, who’s entering the final year of his contract which pays $10.2 million for the 2022-23 NBS Season, is considered “gettable,” an NBA executive told Heavy’s Sean Deveney. The exec said the Suns are looking to shave some salary and the feeling is he’s starting to decline.
Crowder, who turns 32 next week, averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists with the Suns last season. While Crowder’s three-point shooting dipped 38.9% to 34.8% during the 2021-22 NBA season, which fell to 33.1% from February 1 on, he’s still a dominant veteran defender.
Another NBA exec told Heavy that the Heat were also keeping an eye on Blake Griffin if Tucker exits.
Crowder’s Cryptic Social Media Posts Have Fueled Trade Rumors
The 6-foot-6 forward further fueled trade rumors after sharing cryptic messages on both Instagram on Twitter. On Wednesday night, Crowder shared a series photos with the caption, “WHEN EVERYTHING IS PUT TO REST & EVERYBODY TAKES A BREATH & EVERYTHING GETS ADDRESSED… YOU KNOW HOW STICKY IT GETS.!!! 😈😎.”
In the comments section, a Heat fan wrote, “Come back to Miami boss man!!” while another person added, “See u in the 305 bossman 🔥🔥”. However, a Suns fan begged, “Don’t leave PHX WE LOVE U SM ❤️.”
On Thursday, Crowders sent even more enigmatic message on Twitter. He simply tweeted, “😎🙏🏾😈.”
Free agency negotiations can officially start on Thursday, June 30 at 6 p.m. ET.
Spoelstra Continued to Speak Highly of Crowder After He Left
The former No. 34 overall pick from the 2012 NBA Draft first joined the Heat via a three-team trade in February 2020. He was instrumental in Miami’s playoff run to the 2020 NBA Finals in the bubble, during which the Heat ultimately lost to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
After the playoffs that year, Crowder wanted a multi-year contract with Miami, but the franchise only offered the veteran forward a one-season guarantee. Crowder went on to sign a three-year $29 million deal with the Phoenix Suns.
Miami struggled on both offense and defense without Crowder in the mix the following season and ended up getting swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. With Crowder, the Suns made it to the NBA Finals in 2021 and fought for the title against the Bucks.
During that series, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra sent a strong message to his former player in an e-mail to The Ringer.
“I love Jae and what he’s all about,” Spoelstra wrote. “He’s a winning player. He has a toughness in the way he competes, but he also has a sincerity and authenticity that makes everyone want to go to battle with him.”