Considering the uncertainty surrounding the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown, it’s possible that forward Jae Crowder has played his final game in a Miami Heat uniform.
The league is still hopeful it will be able to resume the season at some point, but there’s the fear that this season could be completely lost. With Crowder set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, that leaves his future with the organization in question.
However, this is certain: Crowder hopes the Heat keeps him past this season.
“I’m just very happy to be a part of this organization because I’ve always envisioned that, but I never knew if it could come true,” said Crowder, who has averaged 11.9 points while shooting 39.3 percent on threes, 5.8 rebounds, two assists and 1.5 steals in 13 games since he was traded to the Heat in February. “But I always wanted to play for this city.”
Miami is a city that has become home for Crowder, who is originally from the Atlanta area. Crowder, 29, settled on Miami as his offseason base three years ago, even buying a house in South Miami.
The weather obviously attracted Crowder to South Florida, but so did other ties to the community like his longtime agent Glenn Schwartzman being based in the area. Crowder said “it just felt like home.”
“I’m a Southern guy for the most part. I’m from Atlanta, but I just didn’t want to live back home,” Crowder said. “Whenever I was coming here and my agent was here and I was able to train here when I’m not doing my workouts and stuff, it just felt right. It just felt like home. I quickly adjusted and I made it home. I didn’t want to live in Atlanta. ... Then I was able to make some money here and I bought a house. Once I did that, it was like a no-brainer that this is my home.”
It also helps that Crowder’s father, former NBA player Corey Crowder, lives in Fort Myers. Corey has made the two-hour drive to Miami to attend most of his son’s games at AmericanAirlines Arena since he was traded to the Heat.
Of having his father so close, Crowder said: “For me to go to sleep on a game day, wake up from my nap and have him in my living room, it’s very special for us to share that bond and that chemistry.”
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It’s clear Crowder would like to re-sign with the Heat this offseason, but will Miami bring him back?
Crowder is making $7.8 million in the final season of his current contract, and he will likely be looking for a pay raise in his next deal. The Heat is expected to have significant cap space this offseason, depending on where the salary cap ends up after the league shutdown.
But Miami also wants to preserve max cap space for the summer of 2021 for a pursuit of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who can become a free agent that summer, and others in what should be a loaded free agent class. So, any plan to keep this current roster together for another run in 2020-21 would likely be dependent on its impending free agents, including Crowder, taking one-year deals.
“For the most part,” Crowder said of Miami, “my home is here.”