Jordan Crawford knew something was wrong immediately after Boston Celtics reserve Jeff Green stepped on his left foot as he tried to go up for a layup. He landed awkwardly but was playing so well that he didn’t want to leave.
The pain in his left ankle was so severe, however, that he couldn’t finish the game after scoring a team-high 21 points and the Wizards lost without him.
“It hurt the first moment and I haven’t been 100 percent since that game,” Crawford said about the Wizards’ 89-86 loss to Boston on Nov. 3.
Crawford played the next 25 games, establishing himself as the Wizards’ leading scorer despite an ever-changing role as backup shooting guard, to starting shooting guard, to backup, to starting point guard, to backup shooting guard once again. Until rookie Bradley Beal started to hit his stride this month, Crawford was the only Wizard who was a threat to consistently score 20 points.
But the pain in his ankle never went away, until Crawford decided that it was time to take a break, leading him to sit out against Chicago. He played four more games but the problem — which was recently diagnosed as a bone bruise — eventually forced him to take an extended break.
“I was thinking [of resting] for a minute but I didn’t think the injury was going to last this long. I usually can recover fast from injuries and start jumping,” Crawford said, “but once I seen that it was lingering, I wanted to get it back right because I was upset it wasn’t 100 percent. Can’t jump off of it, just been playing on it.”
The Wizards (7-29) won their first three games without Crawford but he has joined the team on its five-game West Coast trip, and plans to come back before it ends. Despite missing the 95-94 loss in Sacramento, Crawford doesn’t expect to have a difficult transition that looks much different than the one with which he last played.
“I’ll go on this road trip,” said Crawford, who leads the team at a career-high 15.6 points per game. “Jump right in. Provide what I give.”
Crawford has been working out individually before games and after practices with player development assistant Joe Connelly, running, cutting, jumping and shooting in an effort to get back soon. But if Crawford has learned anything in the past few weeks, his body will let him know when he’s ready.
“It’s not sore anymore. It’s just weak now,” Crawford said. “My elevation, can’t jump. I can pick what direction I want to go in, but it’s hard chasing somebody and they picking the direction I’ve got to turn, so I’m just getting it right.”
John Wall’s return will free Crawford of his overloaded scoring burden but Crawford has been encouraged by the play of several Wizards. He believes the team was overdue for some success.
“You kind of knew it was going to happen, though, before we went on this run. Everybody getting healthy. We was already in close games, so you could see it happening,” he said. “Everybody has been playing good. Bradley’s playing good. His confidence has risen. Martell [Webster] is playing good, plus John coming back, A.J. and Trev [Ariza]. It’s a lot of players.”
Cartier Martin will be sidelined for at least another week or more, but Crawford is eager to contribute.
When asked if he thought he aggravated the injury by playing so many minutes on it, Crawford laughed and said, “It didn’t make it better, …but it didn’t make it worse.”
But Crawford could feel himself wearing down. He was playing well against Brooklyn, making nine of his first 10 shots, but he wilted in overtime, missing two jumpers, two free throws and committing a turnover in less than 90 seconds of a game that the Wizards eventually lost in double overtime.
He played just 15 minutes in the Wizards’ 98-71 loss to Miami but decided to take a rest after missing 6 of 7 shots and matching his season-low with two points. “It just became sort of a chronic thing,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “It got to point where you could tell it was affecting him on the floor. I like the heart he wants to play, but also, he’s got to be smart, because we’ve still got over half a season left.”