The Milwaukee Bucks have high hopes for the 2023-24 NBA season after their high-profile acquisition of Damian Lillard, but a player like Jae Crowder being more effective under new head coach Adrian Griffin could play as much of a role in their possible success as anything.
Crowder had a forgettable first season in Milwaukee under former head coach Mike Budenholzer, and teammate Bobby Portis recently revealed why that may have been the case.
“Obviously, when you’re traded and change teams, you sit out the amount of time he sat out last year and come into a new situation, it’s always difficult, especially midseason,” Portis said. “I think there are some unseen things that people don’t really take into account — coming to a new team, running a new culture, building trust with coaches and teammates — and we only had a couple months to get our camaraderie and chemistry together with new guys that we added. And Coach Bud really sticks to his principles, really kind of sticks to the guys that he trusts a lot and it wasn’t enough for him to gain Coach’s trust.
“Now having a fresh start, a fresh training camp, a fresh coaching staff, it’s just a new opportunity for everybody to grow. With Jae, he’s grown for our team. He’s gotten better. Obviously, he’s a 12-year NBA veteran, savvy pro that’s seen a lot now and we know what we can have from him, but I think everybody this year is just taking accountability of themselves to be ready for whatever’s thrown at us this year. I think failure opens you up and makes you lock in even more, especially with being a first-round exit last year, and a lot of us…just sometimes the opportunity wasn’t there for certain guys. It’s a new year and it’s fun to see everybody come back locked in.”
The 33-year-old did not debut for Milwaukee last season until late February after he started the season with the Phoenix Suns.
The Bucks paid a high price to acquire Crowder but got very little production from him last season. After the trade, the veteran missed some time in the regular season with calf soreness and was used very sparingly in the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Miami Heat. The situation had him questioning why the Bucks brought him in and what his purpose was.
Crowder wound up playing only 18 regular season games and averaged just 6.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, both below the production levels of his recent campaigns. Despite all of those difficulties, he chose to re-sign with the Bucks on a one-year contract this offseason.
Now, he’s looking for a new beginning under Griffin, who was hired to replace Budenholzer after the latter was fired following five seasons and one NBA championship.
Crowder will be part of a new-look Bucks squad that has legitimate championship aspirations after adding Lillard to a roster headlined by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Though Lillard was thought to be destined for the Heat, Milwaukee was able to snag the 33-year-old as part of a three-team trade that included the Suns. That deal did cost the Bucks a highly regarded player in Jrue Holiday, who eventually wound up back in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics.
Crowder actually led the Bucks with 14 points in a preseason loss at the Memphis Grizzlies this week. He and the rest of his teammates will have a little more time to adjust to each other and Griffin before opening the regular season on Oct. 26 against the Philadelphia 76ers.