Jae Crowder is ready to salsa all the way to an NBA championship – and further haunt LeBron James in the process.
After helping the Phoenix Suns win their fifth straight playoff game in Wednesday’s 123-98 Game 2 victory over the Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Arena, Crowder made reference to the salsa dance he two-stepped late in their closeout of James and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
“Hopefully, once when we win the whole thing, I can salsa with the crowd, with the fans, some of the Phoenix fans here once we bring a championship home,” Crowder said. “That’s the goal.”
The latest chapter of this James-Crowder story initially took root in Game 3 of the best-of-7 first round series the second-seeded Suns won in six.
James not only did a baseline spin move for a layup with Crowder defending him that got a roar from the crowd at STAPLES Center, he also performed a dribbling exhibition on Crowder right in front of the Lakers bench.
The Lakers took a 2-1 series lead after Game 3’s 109-95 win, but Crowder raised his level of aggression and physicality on James in that fourth quarter.
The Suns proceeded to win the next three to take the series as Crowder not only found his shooting touch from 3, but pulled out the salsa dance to mock James near the end of Game 6 and sprinted off the court after being ejected with 30.6 seconds left.
James does the dance in a Mountain Dew commercial that posted last month.
Crowder then took to Instagram and posted a picture of him doing the salsa dance with a caption that reads, “AIN’T NO FUN WHEN THE RABBIT GOT THE GUN.!! 12 MORE TO GO.!! BIG 99
The Suns are now 10 wins away from their first NBA championship as Game 3 of this best-of-7 conference semifinals series is Friday in Denver.
Crowder admittedly enjoyed the fans’ reaction to his dance and fan interaction with the Instagram post, but says he’s “trying to move on” from it.
“That was the last series,” Crowder said. “I felt like we got disrespected a little bit in Game 3 or whatever so I did what I had to do to close the game, but I’ve moved on to Denver now.”
The back-and-forth between James and Crowder didn’t just start in that series.
The two went at it during last year’s NBA finals when Crowder was with the Miami Heat. The Lakers won the series in six in the Orlando bubble, but James and Crowder had confrontations.
This year, Crowder got the last laugh and the series victory.
Crowder has been a lightning rod for some time now in his NBA career that began in 2012 as a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks. He often finds himself in the middle of trash talking and physical confrontations.
In his own defense, Crowder said what he does is more reactionary than instigation.
“Honestly, it comes at me,” Crowder said. “Honestly, I don’t seek it. Other teams just try to be physical with me, try to get my riled up. I don’t know if they know, but I like that style of play. I like to trash talk. I like all of that cause it definitely gets me going and I think my team definitely feeds off of it a little bit, the energy of it.”
On the flipside, Crowder is paying a price for his behavior, literally.
“I’ve got to be smart,” he said. “I can’t always bite the bait. I keep giving money back to the league. I’ve given a lot of money back this whole playoffs.”
According to the 2020-21 NBA rule book, a player is fined $2,000 for each of his first two technical fouls, $3,000 each for his third and fourth technical foul in the playoffs.
Crowder picked up his fourth technical of the playoffs Wednesday after he and Aaron Gordon got into it in the third quarter.
Based off those figures, Crowder has already been fined a total of $16,000 in the playoffs as a player is fined $2,000 for his first ejection and $2,000 plus the amount he was fined for the last ejection for each subsequent ejection.
Here’s a breakdown of Crowder’s fines off technical fouls and ejections:
Technical fouls 1-2: ($2,000 for 1st tech, $2,000 for 2nd tech) Total: $4,000.
Technical fouls 2-4: ($3,000 for 1st tech, $3,000 for 2nd tech). Total: $6,000.
Ejection 1 ($2,000): Total $2,000.
Each subsequent ejection: (A player’s last ejection fine + $2,000). Total $4,000.
Total fines: $16,000
“I’ve got to be smart and try to protect myself and protect my money a little bit,” said Crowder, who signed a three-year, $30-million deal to join the Suns this season.
A player is fined $4,000 each for his fifth and sixth technical foul that includes a warning letter when “the violator” reaches his fifth technical foul in the playoffs.
A seventh technical foul results in a $5,000 fine and a one-game suspension. Each technical foul after that results in $5,000 and every second technical (i.e., 9th tech, 11th tech) results in a $5,000 fine and one-game suspension.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: After dancing past LeBron, Suns’ Jae Crowder ready to ‘salsa’ to title