Aside from John Wall’s face stamped on the franchise, the Wizards’ backcourt situation was already an uncertain proposition. Jordan Crawford is the wildcard entering NBA season three. Shelvin Mack is the unguaranteed second-rounder entering his second season after a unsteady summer league. Newcomers A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo have three seasons experience and 32 years in age, respectively. Martell Webster wasn’t good enough for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bradley Beal is just a rookie who only turned 19 on draft night.
Now that Wall is gone till November, the end of it, the windows to the car are smudged with grease, and someone is going to have to see well enough to drive. Much could be dependant on Crawford. Even more, in time, on Beal. And perhaps more contingent upon the success of the spare parts — Pargo, Price, Mack, and Webster — is how the dynamic between Crawford and Beal develops. Especially now. With either guard, it could come down to who is helping make plays.
“Somewhat. I’m not going in with that expectation,” said Beal when asked if he was ready to take on the role of playmaker. “But If I’m put in that situation, then I know I’ll be comfortable in finally doing it. Honestly, I’d like to be a playmaker. I feel comfortable with the ball in my hands and creating for others as well as myself. I don’t have a problem with it.”
Randy Wittman will certainly aim to develop Beal at an honest pace — off the bench and without the pressure of running the offense — but if the Wizards struggle to score, as past statistics would like to predict, then the best combination of talent could win out for minutes.
“When people ask me who’s going to start at the point, I think Jordan can play point a little bit, honestly,” said Beal of he and Crawford being able to complement each other. “Just the way he creates and the way he passes is terrific. He’s an underrated passer. I mean, he does a lot of no looks, but I mean, it gets there. He can shoot the ball, pass the ball, plays great defense. He has the size for a point guard.”
Note to Wizards players: always be ready when Crawford has the ball.
Crawford says he’s prepared to assume the position. “I could easily move into that until [Wall] gets back, you know, it’s a natural position for me. Whatever coach got.” And when asked if the team has talked to him about the concept: “You know, I got word a little bit… We going to keep it like that,” Crawford said.
The duo could be the perfect complement to each other — Beal being the calm shooter Crawford can trust when he gets in a jam – or the contrast of unabashed flair in Crawford with the diplomatic reserve of Beal could wear thin.
“He’s a funny guy, honestly, he’s a character. On the court, he’s tough to guard. He’s a challenge everyday,” said Beal when asked about his developing relationship with Crawford, also crediting the third-year player’s defense during their training sessions leading up to camp. Said Beal, “He’s taken me under his wing a little bit. He’s been a leader, as well.”
“We are going to compete on the court, teach him the ropes of what I have learned from playing,” said Crawford about the rookie and mentorship on media day. More importantly, is Jordan ready to backup his overall braggadocio in year three?
Or who amongst the three-headed monster will eat more at the 3 — Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster or Chris Singleton? That will be an interesting battle. Or which of the big kids will claw their way to the court — Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker or Jan Vesely? There has to be a future 6th Man of the Year candidate in there somewhere.
These positional battles will be important, but the Wizards’ playoff hopes will rest on what Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal do to solidify the fragile and unproven backcourt. Sure, that John Wall guy will be important, too. And yes, the Wizards are dealing with a more professional locker room. But professionalism and basketball egos can be two different beasts. The yearning of a single player for hero ball can be infectious and form bad spurts from a string of possessions or several games in a row.
Competition will be good, as Wittman preaches from the coach’s box, but the key to running the team will be to get everyone to accept their roles once the competition is over, and it starts in the backcourt. The Wizards have a solid group of players holding up the structure, now they just have to assign the tasks.