Jordan Crawford didn’t need any defending of how he'd played, but he got some anyway after 21 points on 10-for-18 shooting in the Wizards’ 93-85 win over Orlando on Tuesday.
“A lot of people criticize him for taking bad shots, but that’s just the type of player he is,” teammate John Wall said. “Some of his shots is going to be bad, but he make those tough shots, and that’s how his game is. With him being a scorer like that, we really need that with our offense right now, especially at the guard position.”
But with each passing game, the question becomes less about the present and more about Crawford’s future. Averaging 17.7 points, 3.1 assists and shooting 42.1 percent since the All-Star break, the defiantly confident second-year guard is doing exactly what he did as a rookie. His numbers after last year’s all-star break: 16.3 ppg and 3.9 apg.
Crawford’s performance against the Magic was also his second straight game back at 20 points or more after consecutive subpar showings against New Jersey and Detroit where he had just nine points in each game and shot a combined 5-for-25. He's scored in double figures in 15 of Washington's last 17 games.
“I don’t know if Jordan ever lost his rhythm,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “He just didn’t make shots. Jordan’s a very confident individual as you well may know. I don’t really have to worry about Jordan getting shots up. It’s just, make sure they’re the right shots. A lot of times that kind of fuels his percentage being good or bad, and I thought the last couple of games he’s come out aggressive. He’s attacked the rim a little bit more off the dribble instead of just settling for long shots, and that’s got him to the free throw line a couple times which always kind of gets you going.”
That kind of encouragement has become Wittman’s hallmark over the latter part of the season. He similarly talked both before and after the Orlando game about being in the ear of Kevin Seraphin, making sure his surging big man wasn’t satisfied with his own breakout showings of late.
There was no such commitment from Flip Saunders or the Wizards last spring when Crawford first played like he has been lately. The Wizards simply enjoyed it in the moment then extended a qualifying offer to Nick Young heading into the lockout. The feeling was always that the starting shooting guard spot was his to lose.
Crawford didn’t help himself as Young delayed his return, but he certainly struggled as Young’s backup, and there’s no denying his enjoyment of getting the green light since Young was traded away. Of course, don’t mistake Crawford’s propensity for tough and head-scratching shots for a lack of effort. He still hustles on defense and has shown himself to be a solid passer on the move.
“He’s being more aggressive, and it’s helping us attacking the basket also,” Wall said. “I think he’s learning that he don’t have to take jump shots all the time. He can attack the basket.”
Crawford said it's, “Just being aggressive all around. I don’t want the defense to key on one thing, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The tricky part is, how will his play affect how the Wizards value him when the draft comes around? If the Wizards don’t land the No. 1 pick in next month’s lottery, they’ll have to consider whether or not to select Florida scoring guard Bradley Beal.
That addition would almost certainly stifle Crawford’s progress in the same way that playing behind and with Young did. Three-guard lineups work in situations, but that’s not how the Wizards are going to be transformed back into any sort of contender. At the same time, it’s hard to know what their commitment will be to Crawford until the lottery sorts out the positioning and the draft itself has come and gone.
For now, Crawford is relishing the workload, even if he never changed his expression as he scored or assisted on 12 straight third-quarter points against the Magic and added another seven on 3-for-3 shooting in the fourth.
“I don’t ever really smile when I get buckets,” Crawford said. “I been doing it since I popped out so it ain’t nothing new to me.”