If Jordan Crawford was supposed to be nervous about the arrival of Bradley Beal, he certainly didn’t look the part in Las Vegas. As Beal and the Wizards played the Houston Rockets at the NBA summer league, Crawford sat a few rows up in the stands at Cox Pavilion and coolly watched while wearing a pair of shades.
Crawford viewed Beal’s selection as the third overall pick as a necessity for the team – and not a threat to his job as the starting shooting guard.
“We had to get him. I think he was the best available. He’s the best player, got an NBA body and we needed a guard,” Crawford said. “We needed him. He’s going to be a great addition to the team.”
Crawford had a chance to meet Beal during summer league mini-camp and feels that the presence of a steady, 6-foot-4 rookie with playmaking skills and decent shooting stroke should help him perform better next season. He is always game for some good-natured competition.
“I was definitely inspired, because you definitely want to show players why you’re here, too,” Crawford said, when asked about his reaction to the Wizards taking the 19-year-old out of Florida. “So I mean, it’s going to be fun. I’m very excited.”
Beal was named to the all-Summer League team in Las Vegas after averaging 17.6 points and leading the Wizards to a 3-2 record. Crawford added that Beal should also improve quickly simply by sharing the floor with him in practice.
“Play with me, you’ve got to get better,” Crawford said with a smile, “because I’m going to go at you.”
Crawford didn’t handle the situation well last season when the team brought back Nick Young after he finished his rookie season as the starter. But after fighting to take back the starting job before Young eventually was traded to the Clippers – and finishing his sophomore campaign as the team’s leading scorer – Crawford is more confident in his abilities.
After shooting just 40 percent from the floor last season, Crawford knows that he will have to improve his shot selection. This offseason, Crawford has been training at Loyola Marymount and the old Sports Complex in Los Angeles, working on mostly his ball-handling and spot-up jumper. He participated in workouts with the Wizards summer league squad in Washington to get more familiar with Beal, and he had a spirited session with Trevor Ariza, Cartier Martin and Roger Mason Jr. in Las Vegas.
Crawford has never been one to hold back from bold proclamations. With the Wizards struggling through another woeful season, Crawford said he wanted them to win their final 10 games – and they went 8-2. The day after the season concluded, Crawford said he expected the Wizards to be a playoff team. That was before the Wizards retained Randy Wittman – a move he fully supported – traded for Emeka Okafor and Ariza, and drafted Beal.
“I like everything we’re doing. Brought in a lot of quality players. I feel they are going to help us,” Crawford said. “I’m excited about having a good team. We in a great division. The biggest thing was how good we got, but how better our division got, too. That surprised me. We went and got a good team and everybody else got even better.”
He still believes that the Wizards have the personnel to claim one of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference. “Last year, I just wanted that,” Crawford said of his postseason aspirations. “This year, you can kind of see the pieces coming together. It’s more of a team”
Crawford admitted that his primary source of motivation hasn’t been Beal, but his former Atlanta Hawks teammate, Joe Johnson. Johnson was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this month in a deal that pairs him with fellow all-star guard Deron Williams. Every backcourt in the league, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, will take a back seat to the Brooklyn twosome, Crawford said.
“Vicious. The only word to describe it,” Crawford, who was originally drafted by the Nets in 2010, said of Johnson and Williams. “I ain’t going to lie. I can’t wait for that game. To play against Deron and Joe, in the same backcourt, that’s live. Deron is like a 6-2 Joe Johnson. . . . I’ve been getting ready for it. Everything I do, it’s them two.”
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis recently fantasized about John Wall, Beal and Crawford possibly becoming the next Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, who won back-to-back titles with the Detroit Pistons in 1989-90. What does Crawford expect from the Wizards’ backcourt with him and Wall, as both enter their third seasons?
“It’s going to be serious. Then you add B. Beal. We’re going to be in people’s face all game long,” Crawford said. “I feel we’ll be very fast. A lot of unselfish [players]. [Beal] can pass very well. All three of us can play well together – and fast. Aggressive.
“I think we’re going to give people some scares this year,” he said.