Crawford could be x-factor vs. Knicks

Crawford could be x-factor vs. Knicks
April 19, 2013, 9:45 am
Share This Post

NEW YORK — As he sits in the corner of the Celtics locker room in Toronto "getting (his) mind right" just a couple hours before tip-off, Crawford draws little attention.

Reporters stroll in and out, grabbing a sound bite or two from players while Crawford, over in the corner, prepares himself free of distraction.

Being in the room with other great players while being overlooked is nothing new to Crawford. If anything, it has been par for the course throughout his basketball odyssey that took him from the West Side of Detroit to where he is now, a potential X-factor for the Celtics heading into their first-round matchup with the Knicks.

The idea that Crawford could have an impact on a playoff series has been one of the many unexpected twists this season for the Celtics.

But there's no denying that if Boston is to have any shot at knocking off the red-hot Knicks, they will need players like Crawford to emerge from the shadows of their more glorified teammates to deliver in a way that catapults them into the spotlight.

To see Crawford in position to play an integral part of a winning team, let alone one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, speaks volumes as to how far he has come.

"A lot can go on during a season, lots of ups and downs," Crawford told

And it is that ebb and flow that paved the way for Crawford to become a Celtic.

Leandro Barbosa suffered a torn ACL injury in February which created a need for Boston to search out and find another scoring guard to come off their bench. Crawford was a player that the Wizards had no more use for, and they were willing to unload him and get little more than some cap relief in return.

Shipping him to Boston for Barbosa and Jason Collins -- two expiring contracts -- made sense for a Wizards team that was going nowhere but back to the NBA lottery.

As for the Celtics, the addition of Crawford gave them a wild card element -- and the word 'wild' should be emphasized -- that as we have seen throughout several playoff series through the years, can be the difference between winning and losing.

A big part of Crawford's appeal is that despite knowing his role and minutes will be limited, he has an unbreakable confidence that can at times be misconstrued as cocky.

Celtics big man D.J. White spent one season at Indiana with Crawford, who transferred to Xavier after his freshman year following the Kelvin Sampson scandal. Even back then as a freshman, Crawford played to his strengths.

"He could score, even back then," White told

And that ability to produce points in a relatively short period of time is what makes him a player that has the potential to put his imprint on this upcoming playoff series which will be his first in the NBA.

Crawford has been hearing for weeks about how the intensity level and attention to detail is so much higher than it is during the regular season.

"Just a learning experience," he said. "I have a great group of veterans around me here. I'm going to do what I can to help this team; but basically I'm just going to keep on doing me, know what I mean?"

Yeah, we do.

Being "Jordan" means taking shots that would make most coaches frown and grimace. But those shots are often good shots for Crawford, whose herky-jerky style makes him a difficult player to game plan against.

"He's on the all-scare team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He scares me and Woody (New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson). He scares both coaches."

A lot of that has to do with him having the confidence to not just flourish, but also fail.

Too many times, Crawford has been counted out or underestimated. As a scrawny kid in high school, Crawford was nothing more than an afterthought in comparison to his older brother, Joe.

The elder Crawford was not just one of the best players in the talent-rich Detroit area. He was considered one of the top players in the country, a top-10 recruit who joined a much-ballyhooed class at the University of Kentucky that included current Celtic guard Rajon Rondo.

The elder Crawford finished his career off in style with a career-high-tying 35 points in a 2008 NCAA tournament loss to Marquette.

Earlier that same season, the Crawford boys squared off and it was Jordan -- an unheralded recruit at the time at Indiana -- who stole the show in leading the Hoosiers to a 70-51 win.

Jordan had 20 points compared to Joe -- an 18 points per game scorer at that time -- being limited to just 10 points.

While his older brother has taken his share of criticism as someone who was over-hyped or never lived up to expectations, Jordan doesn't hesitate in giving his brother props for helping him develop into an NBA player.

"My brother was like the guide, he showed us how to do it from high school to college," Crawford said. "Once you see his path, you learn from his path. You pick your decisions how his went."

His older brother stayed all four years at Kentucky, and wound up being a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The elder Crawford never played a minute for the Lakers before being cut, but he did manage to spend part of the 2009 NBA season with the Knicks.

So as Jordan's stock rose at Xavier, he decided to leave after his junior season which made him the first Xavier player to be taken in the first round of the NBA draft who entered the draft with eligibility remaining.

While some still question Crawford's decision to leave school early, he has no regrets if for no other reason than the fact that it put him where he is now, on a playoff team with a clear role to deliver instant offense either scoring the ball or finding teammates for easy scores.

To hear people question his ability and whether he could fit in with the C's, it only drives him to prove his naysayers wrong which he attributes in part to growing up in Detroit.

"That's how we made it in our city," Crawford said. "When you doubt us, we go harder."