Long after last Wednesday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Jordan Crawford remained in the training room. He likely knew the microphones waited for him to speak, but couldn’t do anything about it. A throbbing ankle spoke louder. Meanwhile, assorted media members squatted around his locker, eager to record the shooting guard’s comments after his big 32-point, 11-for-17 shooting performance in Washington’s 121-112 victory over the Bucks. When he finally emerged, Crawford gingerly limped over to his stall; he could barely put any pressure on his right ankle. He looked more like a man who would struggle moving to the right on a Metro escalator without falling down than one who just significantly diminished the hopes of a playoff contending team, including burying Milwaukee with a Agent Zero-esque 30-foot dagger to put the Wizards up six points with 50 seconds left.
Mo Evans argued that the sprained ankle, which afflicted Crawford from the opening tip, was actually beneficial:
“I think the ankle injury helped him because he slowed down, took his time and utilized all the many skills that he has; he has a ton of them. He was extremely effective tonight.”
Coach Randy Wittman expressed sentiments on Jordan’s decisive 3-point make:
“Maybe it was a good thing that his ankle was hurting him, because then he didn’t try to put his head down and drive and get into trouble.”
James Singleton said he explained to potential benefits of having a bum ankle to Crawford:
“I was messing with him earlier. He already has a nice hesitation, but now he has a hurt ankle, so it makes the hesitation a little bit better for him, so it might work for him.”
Cartier Martin admitted the injury might have calmed Jordan a bit and was impressed with the gutty showing:
“It just goes to show what this league is all about, guys coming in, playing hurt and still getting the job done. I do not know too many people sitting at home watching this game that could actually come in and give you 30 points on a hurt ankle at this level. Jordan played well tonight.”
Crawford has provided a litany of unique quotes this season: from calling the Xaxier-Cincinnati rivalry “uncut,” compared to the “commercial” UNC-Duke rivalry; to saying how he doesn’t smile after buckets, because he has been getting them since he popped out [of the womb]; to revealing that he usually gets rid of his “shorties” around Valentine’s Day. Crawford did not disappoint in his answer about his 3-point dagger:
“Felt like I could make it, so I shot the shot, that is how it always goes … I could kind of see that it had a chance, it went it, lucky for me.”
Crawford agreed that his ankle helped him concentrate:
“I think it helped me focus more. On certain things, I was scared to do … I wanted to play, if I was going to play, I didn’t want to make any excuses.”
The overly confident East Detroit native has been the target of fan ire for much of the season because of shaky decision-making and erratic, high volume shooting. He tends to over-dribble, put himself in dicey situations and avoid contact on his drives with fancy moves instead of bracing for contact and attempting to draw fouls. Crawford is good for a few “Why did you do that?!” reactions every game. However, he often competes hard, possesses a ‘won’t back down’ attitude and is one of the few players on the Wizards who can create his own shot off the bounce. Only Crawford’s huge outing during Washington’s Valentine Day’s massacre in Portland could rival the dazzling show he put on for the home fans against the Bucks.
A feature of the Wizards’ rebuilding experiment has been the ability to give young players minutes, providing them the opportunity to improve on a trial-by-fire basis. In the absence of playoff contention, management is using this time to evaluate which players will continue to be part of a future nucleus with the ultimate goal of competing for championships. Kevin Seraphin’s talents have blossomed in 18 starts (54 total games), but also, Chris Singleton’s shortcomings have been exposed in 48 starts (63 games). Crawford falls into this category as well, starting 31 of 63 games at the 2 guard spot with the benefit, to him at least, of really having no leash from the coaching staff, especially in Nick Young’s absence.
Will Jordan be able to build off late-season efforts like the one against Milwaukee, or will he regress back to his well documented bad habits? Has a light bulb gone off that slowing down could pay dividends for his NBA career? He had a poor 2-for-14 shooting night versus the Heat on Saturday; toward the end, his efforts teetered between earnest and detrimentally brazen. The Wizards still won.
Over these final three games, pay close to attention to how Crawford ends his season. His Effective Field Goal Percentage going from 41.6-percent in January to 46.6 in February to 46.0 in March to 44.5 in April may tell one story. Crawford going 42-for-72 (58.3%) in shots from inside five feet over the last 16 games (2.6 for 4.5 per game), compared to 111-for-204 (54.4%) in 63 games on the season (1.8 for 3.2 per game) tells another story. Balling on a bad ankle tells yet another. Slated to make $1.2 million in third year of his rookie contract next season, the Wizards will certainly continue to get bang for their buck. Question is, will Crawford’s effort in this season of diminishing returns mean improvement for 2012-13 and beyond. For him to stick, it can’t always go like this, it’s got to get better.