Crawford getting opportunity he deserves on C's

Crawford getting opportunity he deserves on C's
December 15, 2013, 6:45 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — It was statistically speaking the worst shooting night of Jordan Crawford's NBA career.

Two points. 0-for-8 shooting.

And with the outcome of Friday's game against the Knicks in the balance, there was Crawford, on the floor for the Boston Celtics down the stretch.

For all the growth that Celtics players and coaches talked about following their 90-86 comeback win over the Knicks, lost in all that was the faith head coach Brad Stevens showed in Crawford.

Stevens would have been justified in going with Courtney Lee and sliding Avery Bradley over to the point. After all, Lee had a season-high 18 points and Bradley was hitting big shots in the fourth and causing a ruckus (as usual) with his on-the-ball-pressure.

But Stevens' instincts told him to stick with Crawford, and that faith was rewarded.

Boston won the game, Crawford came up with a huge assist in the final minute and maybe just as important, it was yet another reminder of how important Crawford is to this team's chances at success right now.

"You have to have faith in all 10 guys that are playing or all 12 guys on your roster," Stevens said. "But at the same time, he's made big plays at the end of games and when he hasn't played at the end of games we haven't been as good."

Crawford believes his get-it-done approach to every game thus far played a role in Stevens' decision to stick with him.

"I definitely showed him that I'm focused every day, and ready," Crawford told CSNNE.com. "I definitely deserved that opportunity if I'm playing bad, stick with me. It's just a comfortable feeling and it shows."

Crawford points out that the faith Stevens has in him can be seen in others like Jeff Green and Bradley, who each had their struggles on Friday but like Crawford down the stretch, they too came up with big plays to help lead Boston to victory.

"You can tell he's learning us, everybody learning each other," Crawford said. "It's showing."

And his play thus far shows that he's more than just a combo guard.

His play at the point gives Boston a steady presence coming off the bench when Rajon Rondo (torn right ACL) returns to the lineup as early as next month.

In Washington, Crawford didn't embrace his playing time being reduced when John Wall returned from an injury.

That would later become one of the factors that went into the Wizards trading him to Boston for Leandro Barbosa (who was out for the season at that time) and seldom-used Jason Collins.

But in Boston this season, Crawford has had an image makeover of sorts.

No longer is he seen as a shot-chucking, defensively-inept player who cares about nothing but getting his points instead of getting his team wins.

"Jordan has been huge for us this season," Boston's Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com. "Look at how well we're playing as a team? A lot of guys on this team have stepped up, but we wouldn't be where we are this season without Jordan."

Now, instead of playing on a team that's aggressively looking to trade him, there's actually a market for him without Danny Ainge having to pick up the phone.

There was a report recently that the Miami Heat might have some interest in acquiring him.

A league source told CSNNE.com that the Utah Jazz may consider him as well, although they are believed to be among the teams that would be more interested in Crawford this summer when he becomes a free agent.

Having already been traded twice in his first three NBA seasons, Crawford is all too familiar with the business that is the National Basketball Association.

Strong play may not necessarily enhance one's job security. In fact, it may very well accelerate the prospect of being traded.

As much as he understands that's a possibility, he makes it clear that Boston is where he wants to be.

The playing time he has been given with Rondo out has been important to him. So has his role as one of the team's go-to guys.

But maybe the most important thing has been the trusting relationship he has developed with Stevens, something he admits he has not had to this extent with any other NBA coach before.

And while he would love to continue playing major minutes and putting up big numbers, he understands that team wins, more than winning an individual matchup, is what he has to continue helping the Celtics do this season.

But he admits that his free agent status is something that he has thought about at times.

"You think about it, but once you get on the court and you play, it's kind of normal again," he said. "I just play. This is a great opportunity I have now."

And while many are surprised at the win total of the Celtics thus far this season, Crawford said he saw the team's potential dating back to training camp.

"I knew from the jump we could do some things," Crawford said. "Like being first in our division now. It's fun."

His confidence has remained at a high level throughout his career, even after some less-than-ideal splits from Atlanta and Washington.

Crawford knows all too well that his time in those cities shaped the way many perceive him, and that perception hasn't always been a pretty one.

And as much as that bond has helped him as a player, Crawford doesn't hesitate in telling anyone within earshot that he sees room for improvement - lots of improvement - in his game.

"I feel I can be better than I am, without a doubt," he says. "And I'm getting to show my improvement now. Coach Stevens is giving me that chance, and all I'm doing is taking it and run, that's all."