LAS VEGAS – Jordan Crawford is 14 months removed from his last NBA game, as a member of the Golden State Warriors. The separation feels far away because of all he has had to do in hopes of getting back. But it also feels extremely close because that final performance remains etched in his memory, as if it just happened.
“Game 7, I had 12 points in 12 minutes, just to let you know,” Crawford said with a smile as he offered a reminder of the quick scoring outburst – in a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Clippers – that became his trademark through a bumpy career that saw him play for four teams in four seasons.
Crawford’s hunger to return to the league had led to audition for the Dallas Mavericks at the Las Vegas summer league. The assignment might sound humbling for a 26-year-old former first-round pick with 99 career starts and a scoring average of 12.2 points. But Crawford has already endured a season in the Chinese Basketball Association – where he teamed with former Washington Wizards teammate Andray Blatche – and another eight-game stint with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League.
“Of course I want to be back in the NBA,” Crawford said. “I felt on the court I did a lot to prove myself that I should be here. Off the court I could have got better. I could have been a little more patient in D.C., things like that. You always want to be with the best players.”
Though he started his career with the Atlanta Hawks, Crawford made a name for himself as a member of the Wizards, where he had such a promising start that owner Ted Leonsis once referred to him, John Wall and Blatche as the Wizards’ “new big three.” But within two years, the Wizards had already moved on, drafting Bradley Beal as Wall’s back-court mate, and the relationship had soured so much that they dumped Crawford on the Boston Celtics for a minimal return. Crawford seldom played for Doc Rivers but appeared to find a comfortable role with the Celtics as primary playmaker under Brad Stephens – at one point earning Eastern Conference player of the week honors – before he was dealt to the Warriors.
Crawford remains fearless with his shot selection but has been looking to be more of a facilitator with the Mavericks’ summer league outfit. “We know he’s explosive and dynamic. We’re always looking for those kind guys who can score the ball. We’re giving him a good look. He’s had some really good stretches,” Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle told Comcast SportsNet New England. “Bottom line is he’s an NBA player. It’s whether or not the numbers are going to work out with us or some other team. But we like what we’ve seen and we’re going to keep looking at him.”
After failing to find any takers in free agency last summer, Crawford has been forced to take a more challenging route just to earn a training camp invite. The circumstances aren’t ideal, considering where he’s already been, but Crawford understands that there is no other away after not fully appreciating his previous opportunities. “I’ve always been the type to fight for it, put it in God’s hands and just roll with the punches,” he said.
Facing his former team on Tuesday at Thomas and Mack Center, Crawford was much more aggressive offensively as he needed 13 shots to score 12 points. But Crawford came away impressed with Wizards’ first-round pick Kelly Oubre Jr., who was up for the challenge defensively. “He told me to keep going at him, so you can tell he is a competitor and wants to play and get better, and that’s always good,” Crawford said. “He all right. He can play. He was a great pick for the Wizards. I think he’ll see some minutes coming his way his rookie year.”
As he made his way to through the tunnel to the bus, Crawford cracked a few jokes with Wall, with whom he remains in frequent contact. “I see him all the time. Talk to him all the time. B Beal, talk to him all the time,” Crawford said. “We are always talking and keeping up, I’m always watching.”
The league’s spending has changed tremendously since Crawford last suited up in the NBA. He has been watching the overflow of money being shelled out this summer with keen interest. “What do I think about it? I want to get my hands on some,” Crawford said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s a multibillion dollar industry. That little money that they throwing out, really ain’t nothing to them. It just look like it.”
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