Crabbe's Former Teammates Happy To Have 'Cool Breeze' Back, At Least Until Tipoff

by Casey Holdahl
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Portland’s roster has remained relatively unchanged since the majority of the team turned over after the 2014-15 season. A few fringe players have come and gone, a couple draft picks have been added, but for the most part, the players who received the majority of available minutes since the start of the 2015-16 season are still on the team, aside from a few notable exceptions.

Allen Crabbe, who played four seasons for the Trail Blazers after being acquired from the Cavaliers during the 2013 Draft in exchange for two future second-round picks, is one of those exceptions. Crabbe would go on to play 236 games with the Trail Blazers before being traded to the Nets, the team that offered him a lucrative four-year contract as a restricted free agent, a contract that Portland would ultimately match, which gave the amiable Los Angeles native ample time to become a beloved fixture in the locker room.

Which is why all of Crabbe's former teammates who were asked his return to the Moda Center Friday night (tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and Rip City Radio 620 AM) were looking forward to hosting the player known as “Cool Breeze" as a visitor for the first time.

“I’m sure we’ll be matched up at some point over the course of the game,” said Damian Lillard, whose locker was in close proximity to Crabbe’s during his time in Portland. “I’m probably going to say something to him, just in fun. It definitely won’t be a game where it’s like revenge and hard feeling and all that. Obviously he’s going to want to beat us and we gonna want to beat him but it’s not going to be one of those games where he out there playing with all this emotion and all that stuff. It’s not gonna be like that.”

“I think it’ll be fun,” said Pat Connaughton, who has picked up most of the 28.5 minutes per game made available thanks to the trade. “We’ll have our laughs, I’ll throw a few jokes at him during, before, whatever. But then when it comes down to game time I think he’ll want to have a good performance coming out here and showing what he can do at a different organization and I’ll want to have a good performance showing I can step (into) his place.”

While the assumption was that Crabbe would have more opportunities with the Nets than he did on a roster featuring the likes of CJ McCollum, Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless, he’s actually averaging fewer minutes in his first 11 games with the Nets than he did during his last two seasons in Portland. But according to some of his former teammates, while Crabbe may be playing fewer minutes, he’s making more of the time he’s getting.

“I think he seems more aggressive than he was when he was here, definitely more assertive,” said Lillard. “I’ve always thought highly of him. Even when he was on our team I think we got a better look at him that a lot of people did as far as his personality and what he was capable of on offense and defense, just practicing with him every day, playing pick up with him and working out with him. Maybe he’s had more of an opportunity to do in Brooklyn, so I think you’re just starting to see more of what we already had seen.”

Crabbe is averaging 11.1 points on 38 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from three, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists so far this season, numbers that are either worse or unchanged from his averages last season. Given that, it’s possible his former teammates’ opinion of his recent play with the Nets is being clouded by friendship. Then again, they’ve also seen how hot “AC” can get, especially when playing at the Moda Center, so perhaps they’re just preparing themselves mentally for a tough but fun matchup.

“I think he’s looked pretty good,” said Harkless of Crabbe. “He’s doing what he do. He’s coming off screens, hitting shots and stuff like that, he’s being a lot more aggressive. I’m happy for him being in a good situation… It’s always good to play against someone you played with or a friend from another team. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”