Jul 21, 2014 5:53 PM EDT
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.”
Jun 13, 2014 6:17 AM EDT
MIAMI – On perhaps his final march out of an NBA title run in the American Airlines Arena, LeBron James paced arm and arm with Dwyane Wade, matched attire and jaded eyes to a co-star regressing when the moment has called for his stardom. Inflicted a lesson in championship cohesion and historic levels of offensive potency, the cart ride out of the building couldn’t come swift enough, and so James greeted his two sons outside the locker room and he and Wade simply wore practice gear into a clear address on the state of mind, on the brink of Finals defeat.
James and Wade walked side by side as the clock eclipsed midnight, honest and stricken over consecutive annihilations conducted on the home floor of the Finals, and behind them an onlooker hollered the strangest remarks. “Keep it up, guys,” the man said. “Keep it up!” James had committed to his path forward, but Wade creased his face to the side, as if to grasp vision of the scene out of the corner of his eye. Nothing to keep up here, nothing to counter after a 107-86 loss on Thursday, and Wade continued his walk and caught up to James.
The San Antonio Spurs captured an insurmountable 3-1 lead in this Finals series, orchestrating the essence of the sport with selfless passing and constant movement – with, as Heat players privately said in the locker room, a flood of constant running and pitching of the ball. Run and pitch pass. Pitch and run.
Everyone played and everyone scored for the Spurs. Everyone furnished enthusiasm and everyone contributed to the cause.
As San Antonio amplifies its team morale, its team play, a back-to-back champion and the Earth’s best basketball player have been knocked into submission. James was Miami’s greatest advantage of all. The Spurs are cliché destroyers: The most talented, most reveled player in the NBA won’t tilt a championship, but rather succumb to waves upon waves of shot making and disruption.
“We need to go home, do soul searching and guys have to find out what they have to do for the team,” Chris Bosh said. “I’ll think about how we got our ass kicked. We’re not even giving ourselves a chance.”
All of these aging future Hall of Famers, all of these discarded parts, and purer basketball is found nowhere else. Shot clock running down, and only these Spurs become absolutely dependable, swinging passes side to side, plotting into the paint and exhausting every angle, every millisecond, for the optimal shot. James scores 28 points – 19 in a quarter – and strokes four three-pointers, and it’s all rendered useless. The rest of the starters missed 23 of 34 shots, and the bench was rudderless.
The Spurs are a machine, easing the game at the peak of their powers, teaching Miami a lesson in championship coherence. Suddenly, Boris Diaw has turned into a point guard, a 6-foot-8 specimen schooling Wade on defensive turns, on the low post and blowing past him. Suddenly, the Finals MVP award is up for grabs – a surging Kawhi Leonard and the steady Tony Parker and Tim Duncan in competition – a testament to sheer well roundedness and a brilliant roster design.
“I don’t think any of us were expecting this type of performance,” Erik Spoelstra said.
It was Miami receiving the clutch shooting and critical rebounding a year ago in this series, but Spoelstra’s reliant on dry production now. He’s desperate to gain a defensive control, for turnovers to create havoc in the open court. Through four games, Miami still hasn’t scored 100 points, unable to run the way that the Western Conference trained the Spurs.
The end is near now, no Finalist ever recovering from this 3-1 pit. No one in the Miami organization places any scenario past Pat Riley come July. James needs more reliable shooters around him, needs fresher players to crash the rebounding glass and provide flexibility on defense. He needs his co-stars reliable in the most important times. Just within the past week, the Heat held a free agent mini-camp, including bringing last June’s draft pick, James Ennis, to Miami, and Ennis and Justin Hamilton will headline the franchise’s summer league team.
In the corridor of their home arena, James and Wade walked shoulder to shoulder, no sharp suits or mountain hats or designed outfits crafted by stylists. They had wanted a quick resolution to the press conference, had no time to waste. Given the NBA’s dress code, Wade and James decided upon the Miami Heat’s official gear, a team official told RealGM, and then hopped onto the cart ride to the team bus, onto a plane to San Antonio.
Here was a one-man show in the ultimate must-win game, and a flurry of no-shows. The beauty of team basketball is knocking the generation’s best talent to the brink of title failure, the fate of his youthful 2007 Finals all over again. One more game to stand on now, one more opportunity for a championship cast to support LeBron James.
“If not, then it’ll be over,” Wade said.
Apr 26, 2014 3:14 AM EDT
In the middle of training camp in October, Troy Daniels listened to the Charlotte Bobcats’ front office inform him of his release. He was a prolific shooter at Virginia Commonwealth, a positive soul and a hard worker, and here was the Bobcats’ reasoning for cutting the undrafted Daniels: Too short, a point guard-shooting guard tweener.
For a night, Daniels justified his standing, draining three 3-pointers and the game-winning three-pointer in the Houston Rockets’ 121-116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 on Friday night. This was Houston’s season – a 3-0 series deficit staring them all the way into an offseason filled with regret and questions surrounding coaches and players.
Everyone understood the shooting prowess in Daniels, but no one plucked him out of the NBA Development League like the Rockets in February. They signed him to a non-guaranteed contract through 2015-16, an investment to reward his play with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, whom Daniels remained with in agreement with Houston after it also released him before this season.
Two months later, Daryl Morey’s acquisition paid dividends in the most ultimate way. Daniels isn’t a pure point guard and steady defender yet, but that’s why Houston has Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley.
By releasing Ronnie Brewer to create roster space for Daniels, perhaps the Rockets feared some franchise was bound to beat them to the deadeye shooter. He was their own, too, helping implement a transformative playing style in the D-League, with an emphasis on launching three-pointers because, well, they’re worth more than two.
In the end, the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic closely monitored Daniels and had interest in him before his deal with the Rockets, leagues sources told RealGM. And yet, these Rockets were the recipients of Daniels’ 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range, honoring his four collegiate seasons and commitment to the Summer League and D-League route to the NBA.
“It’s a dream come true,” Daniels said at the interview podium after Friday's game.
The Rockets have utilized Rio Grande Valley for serious roster development and invest in the minor-league franchise to grow players for the main organization. They sell players on the Vipers’ system, the environment they’ve created with coaches.
Daniels averaged 21.5 points and made five three-pointers while attempting 12.5 with Rio Grande Valley, and this is exactly why Kevin McHale turned to the 22-year-old rookie in Game 3: his shooting is special. The Rockets had been reeling through Games 1 and 2, receiving poor performances from James Harden and the bench, but Harden went for 37 points and Lin and Daniels combined for 22 critical points on Friday.
The Trail Blazers kept coming back, and Damian Lillard was brilliant and took advantage of mismatches. They forced overtime despite trailing by double digits early in the fourth quarter, but LaMarcus Aldridge missed all three shot attempts after regulation. For the Rockets, the Blazers’ frontcourt allows them to use Dwight Howard and Omer Asik together, big men able to provide length on Aldridge.
Suddenly in overtime, Lin probed the lane out of desperation and a scramble situation, when he found a streaking Daniels wide open and aired the ball out to the 6-foot-4 guard. Without hesitation, with Aldridge closing out, Daniels rose, fired his smooth jumper and rattled in the go-ahead shot with 11 seconds left.
One by one, they all mobbed him, Harden and Chandler Parsons, Josh Powell and Beverley. The Rockets were on the brink of an upset to a younger, more inexperienced team, on the brink of a 3-0 hole, and Daniels revived the season and restored their promise in this series.
“A couple weeks ago, [Daniels] was in the D-League,” Harden told reporters. “He saved our season.”
It’s simply one jumper, people will say, but clutch shots in the postseason have enhanced careers and padded résumés in the past, and they’ll continue to.
An inch too short, Daniels had heard in training camp. For him, Friday was all part of his goals. This was his job. Other teams paid close attention as Daniels’ three-point totals flourished in the D-League, but no one made the signing. Season on the line in Game 3, and the Houston Rockets found their hero: Troy Daniels.
Mar 31, 2014
Together, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem share the same highs of prosperity, the same low of futility, in this franchise. Together, their plan for freshness could prove genius in June.
Dec 26, 2013
Michael Carter-Williams will never score with the frequency Allen Iverson did over an entire career, nor become the unique cultural icon, but heís already shown Philadelphia flashes of the level of talent that made A.I. a legend there and the mental makeup to go with it. Now, heís hearing about it, too.
Dec 20, 2013
For all of Toure' Murryís persistence after an unheralded collegiate career, after a season in the D-League, he had wanted too much, too soon, sometimes. For all his humility, his quiet manner, he insisted how he maintained composure and found solace in continuing his growth.
Dec 18, 2013
Once last seasonís NBA Finals ended, Boris Diaw spent reasonable time deciding on the player option on his contract with the San Antonio Spurs. For Diaw, the choice had been made simple far beyond the amount of money on the deal.
Dec 11, 2013
As a second round draft pick placed onto the Nets, Tyshawn Taylor spent extensive time in the D-League, but teammates and coaches swiftly noticed his tenacious style on both ends of the floor. Heís put up four double-digit scoring performances in 14 games this season and has a growing relationship with the new coaching staff.
Dec 09, 2013
A year ago, Brook Lopez would always speak as the ultimate role player citing a need to get others a flow on offense, before himself. A year ago, the skilled seven-footer was pushed away from the block far too often and at times resisted constant feeds inside. No more.
Dec 04, 2013
Once the Grizzlies waived him in the 2010 training camp, Tre' Kelley played parts of two seasons overseas where he starred in Europe, and where he scored two 50-point performances in China. Through it all, his sights remained on finding a way back into the NBA, so he decided to return to the D-League with Austin.
Nov 12, 2013
The Bucks executed a shrewd move in dealing for Nate Wolters, and the 22-year-old has the look of a steady, reliable point guard long into his NBA life. He doesnít lean on his athleticism, but rather his elusive craftiness and smart decision-making, especially as a cautious passer early in his career
Nov 10, 2013
C.J. Miles is off to the best start of his career, averaging over 13 points and supplying Mike Brown with a potent shooter to surround Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack. The Cavaliers held an option on the final year of Milesí deal this season, but exercising it was a formality and heís cozied into playing part in the teamís core.
Nov 04, 2013
Rudy Gay reached a peak three seasons ago, and at 27 now he hasnít attained the individual or team milestones that his gifts were expected to bestow. Three games into the Raptorsí season, his shooting is pedestrian and he admits heís hastily searching for an offensive rhythm.
Oct 15, 2013
As a career journeyman with seven teams, Stephen Graham had earned three multi-year contracts, but the NBAís lockout in 2011 prevented him from working out for organizations in the summer and he eventually landed in the D-League and overseas.
Oct 08, 2013
Under Impact trainer Joe Abunassar, Dexter Pittman participated in workouts to increase his stamina, elevate his conditioning, and heard perspectives from the NBA veterans who would work out inside the facility.
Sep 25, 2013
Bobby Simmons has maintained his basketball training while managing his business ventures in Chicago. At 33 now, Simmons still believes he has basketball left to offer a team in the NBA.
Aug 07, 2013
Kevin Garnett and Ron Eskridge, his old teammate and coach, always told Ronnie Fields he would grace the NBA one day. It never happened: a fractured neck derailed his senior season and kept him out of critical games, there was a supposed fallout of his personality, and no opportunity came.
Jul 24, 2013
In DeAndre Jordanís mind, interest from other NBA teams meant he was desired in a way perhaps the Clippers didnít feel as well at times this offseason. As the Clippers pursued Kevin Garnett, Jordan was ready to move on if they pulled off a deal Ė and he took all the supposed interest as respect out of other franchises.
Jul 22, 2013
The Suns know assisting has always been easeful in Kendall Marshallís game, but now both sides understand the importance of developing a respectable scoring game Ė built around a reliable jump shot. Marshall has discussed with the new coaching staff how an ability to hit shots can improve the teamís offense.
Jun 20, 2013
Jarvis Varnado will play on Miamiís summer league team in July, a critical moment for him to prove his standing to Heat management. He is confident the Heat will keep him through his non-guaranteed contract next season, but he also understands the burden of continuing to make strides.
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