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NEW ORLEANS – The young New Orleans Pelicans team undoubtedly learned a lot from their competitive six-game series with No. 1 seed Phoenix in the NBA Playoffs.
They lost the series, four games to two, with a 115-109 setback in front of a wild and raucous sell-out crowd of 18,710 at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday night.
Those fans may have learned something too: careful to whom you say, “F-YOU,” and keep the T-shirts on your side.
Before the game, Phoenix players noticed some Pelicans fans wearing T-shirts that said, “F*** Jae Crowder,” which had been a constant chant about the Suns’ starting forward during the two previous games in New Orleans.
Crowder had mixed it up with New Orleans’ center Jaxson Hayes in the first game in New Orleans last Friday. Hayes was ejected – unfairly according to Pelicans’ fans, who took their wrath out on Crowder the rest of the way.
Teammate and former New Orleans star Chris Paul had to deal with “F-YOU, Chris Paul” chants during the series as well
“I saw all the shirts when I was warming up,” guard Devin Booker said after scoring 13 points in the win Thursday, including a critical 3-pointer late for a 106-104 lead after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury.
So, Booker asked assistant coach Jarrett Jack to commandeer some. The next thing Booker knew, there were several of them in the Suns’ locker room. And Crowder, Booker and others wore them after the game and to postgame interviews.
“I sent J. Jack on a mission,” Booker said.
Call it “Operation Backfire.”
Crowder scored nine points with four rebounds, and he had the last laugh. Phoenix advances to play Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.
“I’ve embraced it,” Crowder said of the “F-YOU” chants. “I’m embracing it right now. Great crowd, great atmosphere, tough environment. But I’m glad I can put the shirt on with a smile right now.”
Crowder never saw the shirts before the game.
“(My teammates) told me they had T-shirts out there with my name on them,” he said. “So, that juiced us up a little bit.”
And now, Crowder has keepsakes from the series victory.
“Some of my teammates brought me a few. I’m going to take them home, put ’em in a case, sign it,” he said laughing.
He did have to do some creative explaining to his 8-year-old daughter Jada, though.
“I’m not going to let her see it, but she definitely heard the chants,” Crowder said. “So, I had to explain it to her that it’s all fun and games. It’s all competition. ‘They really LOVE your daddy.’ I had to play some little psychology – a little psychotic mind games with her just so she don’t get too caught up in it.”
Booker said Crowder should be proud.
“It’s really a beautiful thing,” Booker said of the verbal slurs. “It’s respect at the highest level. I’ve never been an entertainer or performer, but having 15-20,000 people chant your name, that’s pretty impressive. So, good for Jae. People that didn’t know his name before they went to the game know it now. So, it’s a beautiful thing.”