The Phoenix Suns had a media day on Monday, but the veteran Jay Crowder there wasn’t, which was part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit it out until a trade could be found. He left players and GM James Jones solve the problem.
Which teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic advises keeping an eye on the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies, among others.
“Sources tell me that both the Suns and Crowder are currently working to find a replacement for him from Phoenix… Look for teams like Boston, Memphis, Dallas, Miami.
— Rally (@TheRally) September 26, 2022
Miami was at the forefront in terms of interest (and Crowder suggested online that he would be happy to return to Miami). The Heat has minutes to fill in at four after PJ Tucker went to Philadelphia, and Crowder—who was on the Heat that went to the final bubble tournament against the Lakers—would be a great option. Making a deal is a little more difficult. The heat would probably like Duncan Robinson at the heart of the deal, but to keep salaries in line with the Suns, they will have to add another player – Dario Saric, Landry Chamet, Cameron PayneTori Craig – which means that the Heat must choose a pick (protected first) or a player with a minimum contract (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but unlikely.
The Celtics need depth in the top four, but they can offer minutes on the bench by filling Danilo Gallinarirole (he’s out for the season with a torn ACL), but the deal is almost financially impossible given who Boston is willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could make a deal if the Suns are interested Dwight Powell (probably not, Suns just got paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send dead money Danny Green a contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Zeeir Williamson and a few minimal players (probably also with picks). There are rumors about Atlanta, Chicago and other cities.
As to why Crowder insisted on a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and tweeted it.
YOU NEED TO LOOK FOR A JOB WHERE IT IS IMPORTANT.. WHERE IT IS NEEDED.! I AM GRATEFUL FOR THESE LAST 2 YEARS TEACHING ME! NOW I MUST TAKE ANOTHER CHALLENGE WITH CONTINUED HARD WORK AND DEVOTION.! FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO CLOSED THE DOOR TO ME…. THANKS! 99 I WILL BE BACK SOON.! 🥷🏾🤫🤐
— JAY CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) September 25, 2022
This was reported by Brian Windhorst of ESPN. the most frequent rumor in the league about the reason – the Suns were about to start Cameron Johnson on four to shoot more, and Crowder didn’t want any of that – but the reason is now debatable. Crowder will be sold.
The only question is when and where.
SECOND, California. — Darwin Ham there was a new face at the front of the room, and from the day he walked in the door he had looked ahead and with a clean slate. The Lakers own tabula rasa.
“We’ve turned the page this year, you know, we’re looking at the windshield, not the rearview mirror,” Coach Ham said.
However, at the Lakers’ media day, everyone continued to look back at the team’s poor defense and dubious play. Russell Westbrook last season.
Can a new face in the front of the room, a new focus and luck with injuries erase the past and make the Lakers a threat in the West again?
“I think everyone here has a chip [on their shoulder]and in every right obviously [after last] season, last year”, another newcomer, Patrick Beverly, said. “Everyone wants a little charm, a little, you know, more, whatever it is.”
For Ham, “whatever it is” means protection. On Monday, Ham again preached defense. As he has consistently done since the day he was hired by the Lakers, he hangs his hat, his rotations and the Lakers’ chances in heavy defense.
Of course, Frank Vogel also preached protection. He is a defensive coach. When the Lakers won the title in 2020, they had the third-best defense in the NBA, and the next season it was the best defense in the league. Vogel’s message and the team’s focus on this last season was lost for various reasons. The Lakers were in the bottom ten in the league at this end of the floor. It cost Vogel his job.
Ham equalized last season’s defensive problems, and Westbrook fit into the rotation together – if you don’t defend, you don’t play. This includes the $47 million former quarterback MVP.
“We have to be defensive,” Ham said. “These are the guys who will receive protocols, the guys who will receive stoppages. As well as… [Westbrook has] told me personally that he was going to devote himself to this side of the ball.
And that’s what the camp is for. Let’s see.”
Ham wouldn’t go to Westbrook as a starter. It came after the Lakers spent the summer trying to find a trade for Westbrook to get away from last season’s disappointments, but any deal should have brought value to the Lakers. It never really came close to happening (there wasn’t a big market for Westbrook’s services at its current price tag). So Westbrook is back.
“It doesn’t matter if they want me here or not,” Westbrook said. “Honestly, my job is to be professional, to come to work as usual, to do my job in the best way that I can, that’s all. We’ve all had jobs that sometimes people at our jobs don’t like or want us there, as you guys can probably attest, in every other job around the world. As a professional and as a working person I have to do my job and do it in the best way I know how to be able to support and accept my family and that is what I will do.”
Westbrook’s clumsiness was structural: he’s been a ball-dominating scorer his entire NBA career, and now the Lakers are asking him to play his part. He is not their best shot maker, sometimes he will stand in the corners. It’s not in the nature of the aggressive, self-confident Westbrook, and Vogel could never find a balance.
“We tell Russ to be yourself like we need you to be yourself. I tell him to be yourself before every game.” Anthony Davis said. “Because I didn’t want him to think too much like, ‘Oh, I gotta get the ball, LeBron or A.D.’ and now he’s passive instead of aggressive, which is who he was in his league, to be Russell Westbrook. And I think the more he does that, the more we can adjust.”
Ham, however, was more about how the offense can be controlled through Davis — it’s a critical year for him with the Lakers — and, of course, no one is taking the ball out of LeBron’s hands.
“My business is attacking, we want to play fast, we want to be physically fit and play freely. And fast, which means our running habits, getting AD on that left block, getting Armor at the elbow,” Ham said. “We planned to install a lot of sets that would highlight their strengths to get Russ to work harder.”
Westbrook said everything right about the fixture. Yet again.
“I will continue to do what is best for the team, doing whatever is required of me,” Westbrook said. “I will continue to do this. And by those parameters, I’ll be the best person I can be.”
A year ago, Westbrook was talking right to LeBron and Davis, and then his play with the Lakers was never smooth last season. Will it change this season? To quote Ham, “we’ll see.”
Each of the big three Lakers has spoken out about how they just need to spend more time together (for reference, the Lakers had a -3 net rating last season when the three shared a court). This summer they started this process with conversations, but they all said it was just a matter of time.
“You know that time with all of us on the court was very limited due to injuries for me and Bron, but I think that was true,” said Davis. “We just didn’t have enough reps.”
Injuries were a problem. Leto Davis became healthier and stronger, trying to be on the court more and carry more weight. LeBron supported this idea.
“My game is about being accessible…,” LeBron said. “Accessibility is the most important thing in his league, as well as the ability to be available on the pitch.”
Ham’s message on media day was not new, it’s what he was talking about – protection, accountability, team thinking. The question, looking back at last season, fits. Ham spoke to Westbrook about these things and was the guard’s most vocal supporter. Russ gets his…