Jordan Crawford can still remember his old habits as a rookie in the NBA, consuming courses of pancakes for daily meals and his fluctuating emotional state of mind. He had faults early in his career, branded a problem with the Washington Wizards, but Crawford has come far, fast, in the commitment to his body and game.
He’s no longer restless and unsettling on a team’s bench and swears he’s misunderstood to some around the NBA. Years ago, Crawford had told a friend: If the San Antonio Spurs drafted me, I might be out of the league now.
Crawford’s a gifted scorer with the basketball in his hands, but he didn’t fully understand the professionalism and dignity needed within an organization. So he’s worked on maturing, worked to repackage his image. Now, Crawford yearns to play for a franchise with the level of discipline and structure of San Antonio. He wants to be coached hard. He wants to change any negative perspectives of coaches and executives.
“Over the years, I’ve evolved as a player and as a person, and sometimes people don’t see it,” Crawford told RealGM in a phone interview. “Each year, I’ve learned on and off the court. I know how to maintain my emotions and still be effective for a team. It takes time and it takes being around the NBA day in and day out to be able to get a grasp of it.
“Being around Joe [Johnson] and Jamal [Crawford] out of the gates as a rookie, you learn about how to be a professional scorer and how to come off the bench. You learn how to be an offensive power while being a good teammate. Every stop I had, it’s been a learning experience. I wouldn’t change them and I loved every one of them. From Atlanta to Washington to Boston to Golden State, they’ve been great experiences.”
Every summer, Crawford goes home to Detroit and trains in Los Angeles with people who helped arrange his diet and force him to stay on track: his brother Joe, Pooh Jeter, Brandon Heath and Frank Robinson. Off the court, Crawford recently completed his annual International Hoops Exposure in Detroit and Los Angeles, a summer camp that he and his mother and brother started five years ago to give players an opportunity in front of professional scouts.
On the court, Crawford, 25, had his best NBA season with the Celtics and Warriors. He remained diligent even when his playing time split in half once Boston traded him to Golden State before the trade deadline; a career year skidded as he adjusted to new surroundings, a new locker room and new coaches.
His old general manager, Danny Ainge, had listened to feedback on Crawford from previous teams, and they had been proven wrong in Crawford’s year-plus with the Celtics.
“Jordan has matured a lot,” Ainge said by phone. “He played well for us, and he grew a lot from the things I heard about him before. We were pleased with the way he was on and off the floor and I enjoyed being around him. I loved his passion for the game of basketball.”
In Crawford’s first postseason, he simply watched how Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would prepare themselves before games. They were on their last legs, and Crawford witnessed the integration process of future Hall of Famers, the reconfiguration of their mental state to believe they were 20-somethings again. A year later, as a reserve for the Warriors in the playoffs, Crawford averaged 6.2 points and scored 12 points on five of nine shooting in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Even though Paul and Kevin weren’t in their prime, their mentality was the same as if they were in the prime,” Crawford said. “You could tell how they took the playoffs, how they turned it up, and what details they paid attention to. These playoffs, I was prepared for it and I wasn’t nervous for it.”
Five years ago, Jordan Crawford knew an unmistakable truth: He wasn’t prepared to be drafted into a franchise like the Spurs. He was too young, too brash. Behind some outdated judgments on him, Crawford has come a long way from the selfish gunner he was packaged as with the Wizards.
As a free agent, the Warriors decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Crawford, but the front office is open to a sign-and-trade to facilitate a contract for him. He still holds strong relationships with Golden State players and Mark Jackson – and mostly, he still holds hope of signing into a prosperous situation.
“I was surprised at first that I haven’t been signed yet, but I understand,” Crawford said. “From getting traded from Boston to Golden State playing 15 minutes, you forget about somebody. I was happy with my season with Boston and Golden State – staying professional and not being upset in moments when I feel I could help the team.”