Once one of the league’s best-kept secrets, the last two seasons have been a gradual decline from the ranks of the beloved. Despite his talent and his production, and his affability, Crawford seemed to fade back into the realm of the slept on.
He’s still got the respect of NBA players, insiders and basketball junkies.That’s why he currently has five teams interested in adding him, including playoff clubs Boston, Philadelphia and Indianapolis. According to a league source, Crawford is weighing offers from the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota.
Wherever he signs, it probably won’t make that big a splash. But his new team may get one of the steals of free agency considering Crawford’s production-to-price ratio. He’s no longer commanding a double-figure salary, but if he can produce like he believes, he’ll be a bargain.
“The team that signs me this next season is getting a team-first guy, a good locker room guy, a competitor,” Crawford said via email. “Someone who will do whatever it takes, and can get you 17 to 20 points a game whether starting or coming off the bench.”
His willingness to come off the bench, his skills to play both guard positions, his ability to take over games — and the chip on his shoulder — figure to make him a valuable addition. What he brings, per one executive, outweighs concerns about his age, 32.
“He’s a proven commodity, the front office official said. “He’s not afraid to take big shots and he’s shown he can make them. He can play multiple styles and he’s a true professional.”
It was only two summers ago Crawford was most revered, appreciated. He had just helped Atlanta become a threat in the East, reaching the postseason for the first time in his career. He received his highest honor as a pro, winning Sixth Man of the Year and getting perhaps long-overdue respect nationwide.
He had always been respected by his peers as a handful. But Crawford had finally broken out to the larger basketball audience.
“It had taken me so long to get to the point where I was viewed as someone who could win and have a lot of success,” Crawford said via email.
But since then, Crawford kind of drifted off the map. He went from ultra valuable closer with the Hawks in 2009-10 to a marginal reserve in 2010-11 to a Plan C free agent signee with Portland last summer.
And his stint with Portland didn’t exactly remind people if the lethal, clutch combo guard Crawford was with New York and Atlanta.
“In Portland, honestly, we never had a chance to jell, get to know each other,” Crawford said. “And the fact that I was never in a steady role I think effected my production some. No one really had a great season besides LaMarcus (Aldridge).”
But Crawford is convinced that was a blip in the radar. The 13th-year vet is determined to break out again. Playing alongside an All-Star caliber point guard, playing with big men, figures to maximize Crawford’s skills. So him getting in the right situation is vital. If he lands in a place where he’s comfortable, his skills are maximized, and he gets an opportunity to play his game, it stands to reason he’s going to make some team happy. Especially at his going price.
Per the source, Crawford is leaning towards the Clippers, where he got a recruitment pitch from point guard Chris Paul. All Crawford would say is he’s “looking to find a home.”
“It’s been a roller coaster ride the last few years,” said Crawford, who will be joining his fourth team in five seasons. “So I’m looking for some stability, an environment I can still grow and get better, and to help the team improve. I feel like I’m just in my prime.”