It has been a year since Jordan Crawford played in the NBA, a gap he didn’t anticipate when he entered free agency last summer.
Crawford thought he would go about business as usual and sign another contract, but that’s just it – basketball is a business. When four seasons with as many organizations in the league didn’t net him his next contract, he had to alter his direction.
From China to the D-League to the Las Vegas Summer League, Crawford is taking a modified route back to the NBA. He also has a different perspective on the game – one that is giving him a new mindset as he looks to earn a roster spot on his next team.
“I didn’t really make that many relationships with teams, [I’ve] been traded a lot,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders at Summer League. “So when it was time to see what Jordan’s doing, it was kind of a shaky situation because [teams] never really met me, don’t really know me, so teams were a little hesitant off that.”
Crawford was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 2010 and traded to the Atlanta Hawks that night. In February of his rookie season, the Hawks dealt him to the Washington Wizards, where he played two years. The Wizards moved Crawford to the Boston Celtics in February of 2013. Eleven months later, the Celtics sent him to the Golden State Warriors in a three-team trade with the Miami HEAT.
Crawford appeared in 42 games for the Warriors to close out the season before becoming a free agent. He had averaged 12.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds over his career (which included Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with the Celtics), but didn’t find a new home in the league. He decided to go overseas.
“I really didn’t have a deal on the table, so it wasn’t like I turned deals down in the NBA,” Crawford said. “Through my past and things, a lot of organizations didn’t know me, wanted to get to know me, so [they] really didn’t feel comfortable signing me. So that’s why I went to China.”
The feisty guard inked a deal with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. He left to play for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League. With his ability to score at will, Crawford averaged 22.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Mad Ants. The team reached the Finals before falling to the Santa Cruz Warriors.
It was important for Crawford to not just win with the Mad Ants, he wanted to show people he was serious enough about basketball to fight through the D-League.
“[I went to the D-League] for me to showcase my skills, for me to show that I’m humble,” he said. “I’m from Detroit, so I’m not really a high maintenance guy, I don’t need too much. But it was great to show people that I’d do it … I gave a lot of my D-League teammates information on how the NBA works and stuff like that, so it was great.”
Crawford, 26, sees the value in doing more than making an impact on the court. He joined the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team with a new outlook after a year away from the NBA
“Definitely [would have] talked to people more—GMs, coaches, everybody – gain more relationships, a lot more patience,” Crawford said. “When I was in D.C., I was there for two and a half years. It felt long, but that’s not really a long time. So I could have been a lot more patient and just recognize[d] the business side along with the basketball side and just applying both every day.”
Crawford came to the Celtics with a loud, boisterous personality, but wants to shake any negative perceptions he developed over the years. He is looking to show he is willing to help wherever he lands.
“Nobody except y’all [people in Boston] really know me as the fun, outgoing guy; everyone thinks I’m some mean guy,” Crawford said. “Me as a basketball player, I’m just a guy who really knows what’s going on on the floor, I like to get my teammates involved, I like to be aggressive and score. Whatever the team needs, whatever role the coach gives me, I try to help [with] that.”
As Crawford embarks on the next chapter of his career, that also means leaving part of it behind. He went by the nickname ‘Steez’ during his time on the Wizards and Celtics. Those days, however, are in the past. He has a new persona now as he makes his NBA comeback.
“I’m ‘Sizzle,’” Crawford said. “When I land on the pan, I pop. You know that’s all sizzle.”
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