There are only two circumstances in which a team’s fans cheer for an opposing player: Either he’s a product of the team’s city, or he once wore the jersey he’s now competing against.
Neither apply in the case of Gordon Hayward, who still earned a welcome ovation when his Utah Jazz traveled to Boston to play the Celtics on Tuesday. The cheers for Hayward were so warm, Boston’s small forward Jae Crowder took a shot at his team’s fans after the game for supporting an opponent.
“I heard the cheering [for Hayward] before the game,” Crowder told reporters, according to Celtics Blog. “ I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.”
The Celtics went on to strike down the Jazz, 115-104, powered by Isaiah Thomas’ 29 points and career-high 15 assists. But it was Crowder who won the battle of the small forwards.
Boston’s wing scored 21 points of 6-of-8 shooting, including 5-of-6 shooting from downtown. Hayward scored 23 points, on an efficient, yet not as good 7-of-14 shooting, and turned the ball over three times. The Jazz were outscored by 21 with Hayward on the floor — more than any other Utah player — while the Celtics outscored Utah by 22 when Crowder was in the game.
After the game, Crowder fired off a series of tweets to voice his displeasure with the Boston fans supporting an opposing small forward.
HOME TEAM FANS CHEERING FOR THE OPPOSING PLAYERS NOW.. AW MAN OK... SMH BUT GOOD WIN FELLAS ONTO THE NEXT ONE.!!— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) January 4, 2017
He later deleted a tweet insinuating he had no issue parting ways with the Celtics if he felt he wasn’t appreciated.
Hayward and the Celtics have been connected in trade rumors before. As recently as October, ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe reported Boston had “real interest” in acquiring the Jazz’s wing player.
“The Jazz have a ton of guys to pay, and if they down enough beers (just kidding, it’s Utah!), they might convince themselves they have the wing depth to withstand Hayward bolting. His beloved college coach runs a rising team with an easy roadmap to max cap space — and real interest in Hayward, per several league sources.”
The connection between Hayward and Celtics coach Brad Stevens is real. The coach-player duo powered a Cinderella NCAA tournament run when Butler fell just shy of upsetting Duke in the 2010 National Championship game.
Crowder probably knows that, and with his play on Tuesday, he reminded Celtics fans two things: He’s better than your average small forward, and he doesn’t like it when Celtics fans yearn for a potential replacement.
We’ll see if Boston learned its lesson.