He still wears his tear-away pants snapped awkwardly so they rest just below the knee, shoots an hour before tip-off in his warmup shirt, and saunters around the arena like he owns the place. Jordan Crawford has changed addresses, but that doesn’t mean the former Washington Wizards guard has changed who he is, or how he approaches the game now that he’s a Boston Celtic.
“More people watching. That’s what everybody wants. Pretty much it,” Crawford said recently, when asked to describe what it feels like to be on a playoff team.
In his third season, and with his third team, Crawford has finally been given the chance to experience the postseason after the Wizards, believing that he had become a locker room distraction, dealt him to the Celtics at the trade deadline for Jason Collins and Leandro Barbosa.
Crawford has appeared in all four games of the Celtics’ first-round series against the New York Knicks. The Knicks lead the best-of-seven series three games to one as it moves back to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday for Game 5. He scored three points in Boston’s 97-90 overtime win in Game 4, which served as his first playoff victory and 14th overall as a member of the Celtics – matching the Wizards’ win total after trading Crawford on Feb. 21.
Though he recently said that he “doesn’t recall” playing in Washington – where he averaged 14.5 points in 133 games and 62 starts, spread out over parts of three seasons – Crawford acknowledged this week that he simply needed a change of scenery.
“It was time. It was definitely time to go,” Crawford said. “I wanted to leave.”
With a veteran-laden team in Boston, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers has Crawford on a much shorter leash than he had with the rebuilding Wizards. He only started two of his 27 regular season games with the Celtics, averaging 9.1 points in 21.6 minutes.
In the playoffs, Crawford is averaging just 4.5 points in 14 minutes, but he recently bumped veteran Courtney Lee out of the rotation. He has no complaints about his role.
“They let everybody be themselves. Everybody a man over here. They treat you like a man and do things the right way,” said Crawford, who scored 10 points in a Game 2 loss. “I’m around better people. People that, when they see talent, they appreciate it and they try to work you in. They accept real people around here.”
Crawford said he has learned from being around NBA champions such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry and routinely picks their brains. Feeling that he was mislabeled as simply a gunner in Washington, Crawford is appreciative of the opportunity that he has in Boston.
“Definitely in a great position. It ain’t people that hold you back and hate on you for no reason,” Crawford said. “The environment, it’s people that’s been through all types of battles and tell you stories to get you prepared for the playoffs, which the vets here did. So the people around here definitely different.”
Crawford became the odd man out in Washington when point guard John Wall returned from a stress injury in his left knee and rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal began to emerge as a promising building block for the future. But as his role diminished, Crawford became disgruntled and forced Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld to trade the team’s third-leading scorer for whatever he could get.
The Wizards were disappointed that Crawford wouldn’t accept the role as sixth man and designated scorer off the bench, but Crawford thought the problem went both ways.
“If they would’ve accepted what I was doing, plain and simple,” Crawford said, when asked what could’ve kept him in a Wizards uniform. “I put in the work. Nobody else doing what I’m doing. I could’ve won them more games and that’s what they wanted from me; I think they wanted me to be Superman a little bit. But if I put up a triple-double trying to get them a win and you come in and blame the whole game on me, you know what time it is. You see what it is.”
Crawford was forced to play several different roles this season as the Wizards opened with countless injuries. He started off backing up Beal, then became the starting shooting guard and then was moved over to point guard after A.J. Price, Wall’s initial backup, was injured. In December, Crawford was the Wizards’ offensive focal point, averaging 19.1 points and 6.1 assists.
“And what else? Don’t short me now,” Crawford said, before nodding after he was told that he also averaged 5.1 rebounds. “What was I doing that month? Was I cooking? Yeah, that’s what I was doing.”
Crawford had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in an overtime loss to Atlanta on Dec. 18 but a week later, the Wizards signed Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack to take over at point guard.
After missing four games in January with a sore left ankle, Crawford returned to a situation that left him confused and frustrated. He buried his first career game-winning three-pointer in a 98-95 victory in Portland on Jan. 21 but eventually faded out of the rotation, failing to appear in his final four games with the team. His days were numbered once he put his statistics from December on Twitter.
When asked what he has learned most from this season, Crawford said, “Let the haters hate. Simple as that.”