For most of this season, John Wall’s stiffest competition for Eastern Conference rookie of the month was New York Knicks guard Landry Fields. But this month, the greatest competitor for the award that Wall has won the past two months is just two locker room stalls over.
Wall appeared to be the easy choice when the Wizards tipped off against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, since he led all rookies in scoring, assists and steals. But after Wall was ejected after scoring just two points in 15 minutes against the Heat, Jordan Crawford filled in to serve as the Wizards’ primary scoring option and ball handler and finished with a career-high 39 points.
“After John got ejected I just tried to do the best job that I could because he’s a big part of the team. What he brings, you really can’t replace,” Crawford said. “I couldn’t believe they were actually thinking about throwing him out, especially since I couldn’t really see what happened.”
After the game, Crawford complained of back soreness. “It’s tight. It’s real tight right now,” he said.
But Crawford didn’t let the pain keep him from having the best scoring outburst by a Washington rookie since Tom Gugliotta in November 1992. The performance also helped him pass Wall as the leading rookie scorer this month. Crawford, who couldn’t get off the bench before getting trading by Atlanta, averaged 18.2 points in March, while Wall’s scoring average for the month dipped to 18.1.
“It was beautiful to see Jordan come in and score like that,” Wall said. “It’s great to have another scorer that can help us out.”
Crawford’s previous career-high was 27 points, set in Chicago two weeks ago. He scored 27 points in the second half against the Heat. “Jordan continues to impress and amaze. Whatever you ask him to do, whatever responsibility, he has no fear. He’s got great competitiveness, and he’s got different ways of scoring,” Coach Flip Saunders said about Crawford. “He had a mismatch a lot of times against either Mike Bibby or Eddie House. He had to get by those guys and make plays. We haven’t had much practice time so we weren’t going to be able to be very intricate offensively; you’re going to be pretty basic. But when you play a team like them that’s locked in defensively, it’s tough to stick to the basics. You have to go with as many mismatches as much as possible.”
Crawford was caught in arguably the biggest play of the second half. James had just hit a three-pointer to give the Heat a 101-94 lead but when he and Crawford were trying to get a loose ball, James appeared to hit Crawford in the head and knock him to the ground to get it. James then caught a pass and dunked over Othyus Jeffers, hanging on the rim and Jeffers came sliding near the basket support.
“They didn’t call the foul and he went and dunked it,” Crawford said with a shrug. “That’s how it went.”
Crawford came right back at James the next play and got fouled while attempting a driving layup. He then got in James’s face and exchanged words with him. “I was just frustrated. They didn’t make the call.”
Crawford has some history with James after an infamous incident two summers ago when Crawford dunked on James at his camp in Akron, Ohio, and all video of the play was confiscated. The way James and Crawford were jawing at each other, it seemed as if they were discussing that highly-publicized incident. But Crawford denied that it was ever brought up.
“Who? Me and LeBron talk about it? I don’t even know him. I just see him play,” Crawford said. “It happened a long time ago, but it’s a big thing, I just let it ride.”
When asked about how the video was confiscated, Crawford decided to take a little jab at James. “I think it showed up on YouTube. I think you can go check it out,” Crawford said with a smile.