Wizards' Crawford embraces position battle with Beal

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Despite rookie, guard remains scoring option

Changes to the Wizards' roster haven't changed Jordan Crawford.

After all the work he did in his second season to lay claim to the starting spot at shooting guard, Washington went out and drafted Bradley Beal, who plays the same position, with the third overall pick. Instead of rejecting the competition, Crawford has embraced it.

Former Wizards coach Flip Saunders, now an analyst for NBA TV, said earlier this month that Crawford "will shoot every time he touches it."

Preseason
Wizards at Raptors
When » Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where » Air Canada Centre, Toronto

Crawford shrugged it off.

"When you losing, you gotta blame somebody. That's how I look at it," Crawford said

It was an appropriate follow-up to an answer he gave at media day: "Who else going to shoot?"

And after starting the first two preseason games, Crawford has come off the bench in the last two, making way for Beal, who is second among rookies in scoring (15.0 ppg).

Crawford understands the lineup rotation is part of Wizards coach Randy Wittman's process of evaluation. He also knows that despite Beal's positive initial impact, Washington is still in desperate need of offensive production, especially while John Wall and Nene remain injured.

"No, you gotta kind of be a basketball player and be in it to really see it," Crawford said. "You gotta to know what the team needs regardless of what people think. If you don't have scorers, you gotta score. It's as simple as that. Regardless of what people are saying, you still gotta be you."

Wittman praised Crawford's maturity in training camp, where he saw proof of the work that Crawford put in over the summer. Sustaining that level has been more difficult as the preseason schedule has gotten underway. Paired in the first two games with Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely and A.J. Price -- all of whom have struggled to put the ball in the basket -- Crawford shouldered a familiarly unfair burden, leading to forced shots and turnovers.

"He's trying to do the right things," Wittman said. "That's the thing that he's got to stay on. ... He's done a much better job of working to get open instead of just popping, getting the ball and trying to go one-on-one. I think it showed in his play."

In the most recent two games, Crawford (12.3 ppg) has added more distribution to his game, with seven assists against Cleveland and another three at Brooklyn after having three combined in the first two contests. He remains an underrated passer, and he even found himself on the floor simultaneously with Beal late against the Nets.

For now, he's still likely to be labeled as a gunner. What outsiders often misunderstand is that's his role.

"It really comes down to if I make the shot, it's a good shot," Crawford said. "You know, you gotta be aggressive, regardless of what people are saying, how it is. You still gotta do you."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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