Jordan Crawford has supreme confidence, carries an extreme chip on his shoulder, calls himself “Sizzle” and never steps on court believing that he should take a back seat to anyone. Those qualities helped Crawford overachieve for much of his career but also proved to work against him in his final days as a member of the Washington Wizards.
On Thursday, Washington traded the disgruntled third-year shooting guard to the Boston Celtics for injured veteran guard Leandro Barbosa and seldom-used veteran center Jason Collins, getting minimal return for a player who had been the team’s leading scorer until last month.
“Jordan did not fit into our current plans . . . or our future plans,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said during a news conference to announce the trade. “At this time, we thought it was in the best interest of everyone if we make this trade. It will be a good situation for Jordan. He might get an opportunity to go to a better team and help them and it will allow us to continue on the path that we’re trying to build in the locker room, with work ethic and team play, where everybody is on the same page and wanting to play for the same reasons. Being unselfish offensively and playing good, aggressive defense.”
Grunfeld said the deal came together at “the last minute,” as it became evident that Crawford wanted a bigger role with the team, and was agreed upon nearly an hour before the NBA’s 3 p.m. deadline. The trade ended a roughly two-year relationship with a player whose questionable shot selection, colorful personality and occasionally hilarious quotes helped him establish somewhat of a cult following among Wizards fans.
Crawford was the Wizards’ third-leading scorer this season, averaging 13.2 points and 3.7 assists, but had recently fallen out of the rotation and did not appear in any of the past four games. He was serenaded with chants during the third quarter of the Wizards’ last home game, a 96-88 loss on Tuesday to the Toronto Raptors in which he slouched over and wrapped a towel over his head on the bench. After the game, Crawford tossed his jersey and shooting shirt into the stands with disgust before heading to the locker room.
“He never came in and said” he wanted a trade, Grunfeld said, “but his actions and the way he has been, he hasn’t been the happiest person, but he’s a good player and we wish him luck in his new situation.”
The Wizards (15-37) aggressively shopped Crawford, looking to acquire a draft pick in return, but the third-year shooting guard didn’t attract much interest despite leading or tying the Wizards in scoring in 17 games. Washington also spoke to the Dallas Mavericks about a possible deal but focused on Boston because the Celtics had an obvious need.
According to a league source, the Celtics offered Fab Melo, a 7-foot rookie from Brazil who has appeared in just four games. The Wizards, though, had no interest in taking back salary beyond this season, especially for a big man who remains a project.
They opted for the financial savings of two expiring contracts instead. By moving Crawford for the expiring deals of Barbosa and Collins, the Wizards save $2.2 million for next season, the last of Crawford’s rookie deal. In turn, the Wizards could use the money to possibly retain swingman Martell Webster, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Acquired at the trade deadline two years ago. the Wizards liked Crawford’s promise.
But the team has attempted to create a much different culture of accountability since that time. It moved JaVale McGee and Nick Young at the trade deadline last March and used the amnesty clause to cut ties with Andray Blatche.
“He had some good moments, but the way we’re playing now is a lot different than then,” Grunfeld said. “Now we’re a defensive oriented team. The players are playing the right way and trying to execute. They’ve been supportive of one another and it just seems like it wasn’t the perfect fit for Jordan at this time.”
Crawford was asked to play numerous roles for the Wizards, flourishing in December when Wall was still sidelined and he had the freedom to score. He played despite a sore left ankle but rested for three days in January, and the team ran off its first three-game winning streak.
The Wizards were 5-3 in the past eight games that Crawford missed, and he became more expendable when Wall returned from a stress injury in his left knee. In his first 31 games, Crawford averaged 15.6 points on 41.8 percent shooting and 4.6 assists in 29.8 minutes. But Crawford appeared in just 12 of the 19 games with Wall and averaged just 6.9 points on 40.3 percent shooting and 1.2 assists in 16.9 minutes.
“He wanted a bigger role,” Grunfeld said. “It wasn’t what he really wanted in that situation and we felt like our future was going to be with John Wall, Bradley Beal. Jordan got a lot more minutes early in the season when John was out with an injury and Brad was learning.”
Crawford resisted a reserve role, but the Wizards were 1-11 in his 12 starts this season. He hadn’t played more than 24 minutes since Jan. 4, when he scored 23 points in a double-overtime loss to Brooklyn in which he committed two turnovers and missed two jumpers and two free throws in the final 75 seconds of overtime, allowing the Nets to rally from an eight-point deficit.
“The good thing and the bad thing I hear about him is his confidence,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers told reporters in Los Angeles. “You rarely say that. It’s tough for him [there] to buy into a role because he looked at himself as, ‘I’m better than them.’ I’m hoping that we don’t have that issue here. Obviously if we do, then it will be a problem.”
Barbosa, a native of Brazil and close friend of Wizards forward Nene, won’t suit up for the team after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on Feb. 11 in a loss to Charlotte. He is signed to the veteran minimum of $1.2 million but his salary is only valued at around $854,000 on the cap, so Collins was added so that the salaries would match up.
Collins wasn’t supposed to be in the original deal but two league sources said former Maryland standout Chris Wilcox refused to waive his Bird rights in order to facilitate the trade and elected to stay in Boston.
Collins, 34, is averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds with the Celtics. He has career averages of 3.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 12 seasons in New Jersey, Memphis, Atlanta and Boston. He also has more fouls than points in six of his past seven seasons.