Jordan Crawford: Naturally Unnatural
For being the root of the furor surrounding the confiscated, yet perhaps less-than-stellar dunk on LeBron James in July 2009, Jordan Crawford is a rather ambiguous player. His hunched-down physique, raspy gargle of a voice and 6’4″, 195 pound stature almost denotes an ‘old man’ impression on his non-demonstrative movement. But when he goes to score, fueled by natural instinct, he is just as spry as you’d expect of a 22-year old NBA rookie, and then some.
But what exactly does he do? Are the Wizards simply working with wild scoring talent that needs to be tamed? That seems to be the more present denominator of Crawford’s game with, perhaps, the assumption that his development as a complete player — certainly including the ability to play defense and perhaps including the ability to fill the role of spot creator — will simply come along for the ride of his seemingly unpredictable nature.
Crawford has shown the promise of relentless defensive intensity, and he’s also shown the ‘oh brother’ of overly aggressive, erratic offense. What he seems to be at this point is naturally unnatural, the current stats on his professional career, in their tiny, unable to be truly analyzed sample size, contributing to his ambiguous nature. He is yet another Wiz Kid to be tossed in the already crowded pool, not to see if swims, but how he swims. Hopefully Crawford and his other young teammates don’t end up climbing and clawing at each other in order to stay afloat. But the mundanely optimistic part about watching a bad team in the midst of rebuilding is that the opportunities will be aplenty.
Maurice “Mo” Evans, who came to the Wizards with Crawford in the Kirk Hinrich trade, has proven to be a veteran’s vet. He’s well-spoken and provides thought-out answers, the good standing of his opinion aided by the fact that he’s one of six vice presidents of the National Basketball Players Association. Evans has been around Crawford for the duration of his 212-minute NBA career (160 over 16 games in Atlanta and 52 minutes over four games in Washington). More importantly, Evans has seen a display of Crawford’s talents and demeanor since training camp and in practices — clearly Evans ranks highly amongst authorities in observational opinion of Crawford’s game. After last Saturday’s game versus the Dallas Mavericks, I asked Evans two key questions about Crawford.
You’ve obviously seen a lot of Jordan, what about his game do people not really know about?
“As good as he scores, he can pass. He has great court vision, and he has a high basketball IQ. He picked up on our system in Atlanta really, really quickly for a guy who didn’t get a lot of minutes. And that a lot of times doesn’t happen for young players, to pick up on systems and to still be able to go out and grasp the concepts and contribute when he does. Because the times that he did get to play, he had moments like this [against Dallas, Crawford scored 10 points on 5-9 shooting with two steals and two assists in 17 minutes off the bench] where he showed a lot of promise and he showed that he really would be a player in this league if he keeps working.”
Speaking of working, where does he need to improve to take that next step in his game?
“I think time to score. I think definitely not settling for the jump shot because he does have such a good shot. I think it’s easy for him to fall prey to being a jumper shooter instead of putting pressure on the defense as does John [Wall]. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense all the time. So, you know, maybe, for example, when we had gotten the steal, Mike [Bibby] got the steal, and we end up shooting a three [after Crawford hit a runner to cut Dallas’ lead to 87-78 with 7:57 left in the game, Bibby got a steal and then Crawford missed a three]. You know, we had numbers and that was a time to be a little bit more aggressive going to the rim. We could have maybe scored that and that would’ve cut the game dramatically. But I think just those situations, and that’s what I talked to him on the bench, and he was in agreeance with me.”
Flip Saunders on Crawford:
“He can make plays. He’s a playmaker, as far as he has the ability to score. He’s extremely talented, he has no fear going against anybody. And the other thing was, he made shots [against Dallas], so we kept him in the game. But he did what we thought he could do. I think he’s got a chance in this league. I like his moxie, I like his competitiveness. We liked him coming out of the draft, he was a guy we had very high on the board.”
[Crawford seeks a bailout from paint penetration against Chicago.]