On Monday, Phoenix’s Jae Crowder helped break new ground in Arizona sports betting advertising circles.
On Tuesday, Crowder and his Suns teammates found themselves in unchartered territory on the basketball court — at least for this season.
Crowder was named the Gila River Resorts & Casinos brand ambassador. It’s the first time Gila River has partnered with a professional athlete. And they couldn’t have picked a better time, with Phoenix a prohibitive favorite to win its first NBA title and Crowder a starter on a team that dominated the regular season.
But the Suns NBA betting supremacy was challenged Tuesday, as Phoenix fell to New Orleans 125-114 at the Footprint Center in Game 2 of its first-round playoff series as a 9.5-point favorite.
With the series tied 1-1, and the Suns suddenly looking vulnerable, games shift to New Orleans. Game 3 is Friday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN, while Game 4 is 6:30 p.m. Sunday on TNT.
More on Crowder’s Deal With Gila River
Gila River operates three casinos in the Phoenix area — Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva — with a fourth casino set to open later this year.
The company said in a press release it was attracted to Crowder’s competitive nature. Crowder also owns a clothing brand called Bossman.
“Jae Crowder is a bossman, and we are honored to have him as our first-ever brand icon,” said Dominic Orozco, president and chief marketing officer at Gila River Resorts & Casinos, in the press release. “Gila River is celebrating its new resorts designation in a big way with Jae. His talent, drive, and vision with his business manager, Josh Mason, is unmatched. We are excited to welcome Jae as our new teammate to the Gila River family.”
Crowder, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Marquette, started all 67 games he played in this season for the Suns, averaging 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. He had 5 points in Tuesday’s loss to the Pelicans.
“I have a vision of growing with Gila River as we have a lot of things in common,” Crowder said in the press release. “Being an athlete at the highest level with one of the best teams in the NBA, it is important to grow my local relationships with people whom I am comfortable with and believe in.”
By joining Gila River, Crowder has also become a competitor with the Suns as far as new Arizona sports betting apps are concerned.
Gila River is a sports betting partner with both BetMGM Arizona and the Arizona Cardinals. BetMGM operates retail sportsbooks at all three Gila River locations.
The Suns’ sports betting partner is FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona, which has had a retail betting location at Footprint Center since September.
Suns Title Odds Slip as Series Shifts to New Orleans
Tuesday’s Suns loss was compounded by an injury to All-Star guard Devin Booker. Booker left Game 2 in the third quarter with hamstring tightness after scoring 31 points in the first half.
Reports indicate Booker will be out for Games 3 and 4. The Suns said Wednesday Booker has a mild right hamstring strain and “there is no timetable for his return.” But even without Booker, the Suns are slight favorites to retake home court advantage.
DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona has Phoenix as a 1.5-point Game 3 favorite with a -120 moneyline. The Suns opened at +1 with the moneyline at -110 for both teams.
But DraftKings has bumped Phoenix’s NBA title odds to +300 after it opened the playoffs at +255.
Caesars Sportsbook also has Suns -1.5 after Game 3 opened as a pick-em. Caesars has nudged the Suns title odds to +300 from +260.