Originally pigeonholed as a scorer and nothing else, when the Celtics acquired Jordan Crawford at the trade deadline last season it was widely assumed he wouldn’t stick with the team beyond 2012/13. The words ‘wild’ and ‘erratic’ were common phrases used to describe a man known as ‘Steez’.
If it wasn’t for his existing contract and Boston’s flirtation with the repeater tax, Danny Ainge would have cut Crawford loose over the offseason, due to the abundance of shooting guards occupying the C’s roster. When it became clear Crawford couldn’t be cut without risking the repeater tax in July, A. Sherrod Blakely reported Ainge and co. were shopping J-Craw around:
A league source said the Celtics would “love” to move Jordan Crawford but have had little to no interest thus far.
It was understandable. Many fans in Boston figured the arrival of MarShon Brooks would make JC expendable, and after a sample of Crawford in green, question marks surrounded what type of player he could be for the team. Feeling uncomfortable with the ball in his hands last season may not have been Crawford’s own doing, as Doc Rivers was happy to let him run the floor without learning or calling set plays, and to just let the game come to him. This equated to some flashes of brilliance with passes and finishes around the rim, some bizarre shot selection, and some absolute frustration from all involved.
Crawford’s maturity and ability to be a good teammate were also lingering concerns. His verbal stoush with Carmelo Anthony after game 5 in last year’s playoff exit, despite not logging a single second of action in the contest, didn’t bode well for his reputation.
Enter preseason 2013. Impressing his teammates in camp, and new coach Brad Stevens with his ability to run the floor, Crawford was moved into the starting point guard role in the preseason, which has now carried over into the Celtics’ first 8 regular season contests.
A high of 10 assists against the Magic at the TD Garden on Monday night, one shy of a career-best 11 dimes, helped highlight Crawford’s growth, his unselfish play, great ball-handling ability and confidence to pass the ball on time and on target.
Steez has gained the trust of his teammates and fans alike, bringing a sense of safety and security with the ball in his hands. When Crawford enters the game, you know the offense will get a boost. Avery Bradley told ESPN
“Not to take away from anybody else that might start with me, to have Jordan come out there, he kinda has a swagger to his game,” said Bradley. “He feels like he’s better than everybody and, to have someone that brings that energy every single night, it makes you feel a lot more comfortable out there. I love when he starts and having somebody beside me that’s going to go to war with me every single game.”
In the C’s first win of the season against the Jazz last week, Utah came back to within 6 points in the final quarter. When Crawford returned, I felt a sense of relief knowing he had the ability (and confidence) to create his own shot, and to create for others. Fast becoming a signature of his game, the deep bail-out 3 pointers with the shot clock winding down have become a specialty, as well as his crafty drives to the basket, spinning his opponent inside out, with the option of dishing to an open teammate or finishing with a tough, but effective, floater.
Gone are the days of erratic passes and wild shots, as Crawford has become a valuable member of the Celtics in this early part of the season. Let us know your thoughts on Crawford’s early season promise in the comments below!
– Michael (@mickyt34)