Commentary

Crawford forgets Wiz, embraces C's

New Boston guard shrugs off Washington game, seeks role in playoff rotation

Updated: April 7, 2013, 1:15 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Call it selective amnesia.

Celtics guard Jordan Crawford was asked Saturday -- in as many creative ways as reporters could muster -- about his emotions as he prepares to face the team that traded him to Boston on Sunday night at TD Garden.

But each time the topic of the Washington Wizards was even broached, Crawford acted as if the two-year period from Feb. 23, 2011 (when he was traded from Atlanta) to Feb. 21, 2013 (when he was acquired by Boston) had been swiped from his memory.

"Who?" asked Crawford. "I don't recall playing for Washington."

[+] EnlargeJordan Crawford
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesJordan Crawford's shooting slump continued Friday, when he missed 11 of 14 shots against the Cavs.

Laughter ensued, but it quickly gave way to more awkward questioning as it became clear Crawford had no desire to actually address the topic. Crawford appeared in 133 games (62 starts) for Washington over parts of three seasons, averaging 14.5 points, 3.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds over 28.2 minutes per game.

Asked if he might be more amped for Sunday's game, he responded, "What game?" seemingly offering more questions to reporters than vice versa.

Later, Crawford was asked if he had a little something extra to prove to the team he couldn't remember, because of the way things may or may not have ended there.

"Ended with who?" he asked yet again before finally relenting ever so slightly to the interrogation.

"It's just another game," said Crawford. "I want to come out, try to win the game. We lost the last one."

Across the gym, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he had far more pressing concerns -- his team's transition defense and rebounding, chief among them -- than worrying about Crawford's emotional state. But Rivers was certain that Sunday wouldn't just be another game for Crawford.

"I think everybody gets amped when they play their old team and Jordan will be in that same category," said Rivers. "I would be surprised if he wasn't."

While he wouldn't touch the subject of his rocky past with the Wizards, Crawford heaped praise on his current situation, suggesting the veteran core in Boston has forced him to grow up as a player.

"Just the seriousness it takes every day," said Crawford. "The players we have are different. It's a blessing to be here and to learn from the best."

In 22 games for Boston, Crawford is averaging 8.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists over 20.3 minutes per game. He's fallen into a bit of a slump the past five games, shooting 29.2 percent overall (14-of-48) and 23.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc (3-of-13). He has shined as a passer, but the Celtics acquired him for an offensive burst and he's struggling to find his shot.

According to Synergy Sports data, Crawford is averaging 0.808 points per play with Boston, which ranks in the 25th percentile among all league players. He's been solid in spot-up situations (1.04 points per play, 72nd percentile), but woeful coming off screens or in transition.

During Friday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Crawford looked like he was trying to shoot his way out of his funk, but missed 11 of the 14 shots he put up. He did finish with seven points, five assists and four rebounds over 29 minutes (and he was one of the few Boston players in the positive for plus/minus). But Rivers admitted he had some head-slapping moments, like an end-of-the-third-quarter sequence when he drove near the basket, only to reverse course to the 3-point line and hoist an off-balance, off-target 25-footer to the end the frame.

Rivers also pointed out a play in which he negatively associated Crawford with that team that he couldn't remember playing for.

"He had a 'Washington play,' I call it, where he honestly got so upset that [the Cavaliers] were making a run, and you could visually see it, he went and grabbed the ball and said, 'I'm going to make something happen,'" explained Rivers. "That could be with a shot or a pass. That's being very competitive. That's the one thing we've found out about him, he's competitive off the charts. And that usually gets him in trouble."

Crawford doesn't apologize for his competitiveness, however. In fact, he believes it's the key to his NBA success.

"I think it's the reason why I'm here today," said Crawford. "It's a blessing."

Crawford's potential playoff role in Boston is unclear. He truly is a wild card and, while that's exactly what Boston desired when it obtained him from Washington in exchange for injured Leandro Barbosa and veteran center Jason Collins, it remains to be seen how much leash Rivers will offer him in the postseason. Fellow in-season addition Terrence Williams is making a strong case to share Crawford's potential depth role by providing a steady ball-handling presence to a Boston team without a healthy point guard.

Crawford needs to use these final six games of the regular season to get his offensive game back on track. If he's looking for a spark, he should need only look at the jerseys of the opposition tomorrow.

You know, the one he's never worn before.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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