Jordan Crawford’s stint with the New Orleans Pelicans is off to one of the best individual starts in franchise history.
Through his first three games, he is averaging over 15 points a game and shooting better than 50% from the field. Only six other players, including widely considered the best players in franchise history — Chris Paul, Anthony Davis and David West, have began a season in New Orleans similarly or better. Just two have managed the feat without starting a single game: Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday.
That’s some distinguished company, especially for a journeyman who has never remotely been associated with possessing any efficiency. There are a few volume shooters who enter the league and never have to worry again about where their next paycheck is coming from for the rest of their playing careers; for most others, it’s quite the polar opposite.
Within the span of seven years, Jordan Crawford has played for five NBA franchises, two D-League squads and two Chinese clubs. He has never stayed with the same team for more than two full calendar years. Presently, he is on a 10-day contract with the Pelicans, yet there’s a reasonable chance he may have finally found a long term home.
Inefficient scorers, as Crawford can attest to, are a dime a dozen and never rank high on general manager wish lists. Seemingly overnight, Jordan found himself halfway around the world in a foreign land, needing a translator just to be able to eat. As he told Chris Reichart this past November, the humbling experience in China had a profound effect, helping him realize the path back to the NBA required significant physical as well as mental changes in his own game.
“When I first got to the league I wanted to be the greatest player…ever. More than anything that’s what I wanted. But once you learn there’s more to life than basketball, it’s easier to simply play and enjoy what you’re capable of doing on the court. My journey has been humbling and this is just part of the change I’ve had.”
Other changes included a renewed focus on his handles and distributing the ball. Instead of solely seeking out his own shot, he has developed a deep respect for the team game. When Ray McCallum, the Grand Rapids starting point guard, was called up to the Charlotte Hornets, Coach Rex Walters replaced him with Crawford and Jordan didn’t disappoint in a pass-first role.
Additionally, Crawford has also matured off the court. After he was selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, he threw a huge party despite not knowing if he was even going to be selected. This once considered selfish player sulked extensively after being demoted to a sixth man role. Now, he looks to go out of his way to help teammates.
“The reason why I came to the D-League this year, is, I wanted to give it a shot,” Crawford says. “After that stint in China and seeing what I could do, I really wanted the NBA to see what type of player I was. And, the misunderstanding, people have me as a selfish guy and not a locker room guy. I really wanted to show them what type of person I was.”
Did you know Crawford requested a B-level contract before the start of this NBADL season?
Was told today that Jordan Crawford requested a B level contract in the NBADL so a player w/o NBA experience could get an A level. Amazing!— Chris Reichert (@Chris_Reichert) October 21, 2016
In essence, Crawford agreed to a lower salary so that a fellow D-League player without NBA experience could land a bigger contract. Considering Crawford’s basketball trajectory and his 28 years of age, that’s a heck of an unselfish deed.
As you know, this New Orleans team doesn’t lack for high character types in the locker room but rather willing shooters with a propensity for scoring points. Prior to Crawford’s arrival, the Pelicans bench mob was averaging a league-worst 20.8 points a game following the DeMarcus Cousins trade. My biggest gripe with the team wasn’t just the poor perimeter shooting, but the absence of a much needed scoring mentality as well. Over the last three games, the reserves are now averaging a 9th-best 38.7 points per game.
Will Crawford keep this current level of production up? That’s not a smart bet, but I think it’s time to start taking him seriously after reading about the advances in his makeup profile, examining the evidence of improved shooting since leaving the NBA a few years ago and witnessing his fit over the course of three games for the Pelicans. He’s still a gunner but has developed a bit of a conscience and a heck of a lot of understanding about doing things the right way. Upon being asked about his confidence level following the win against the Charlotte Hornets, he responded:
“First off, I’m happy we got the win. I think everybody contributed to help us; it made it easy on everybody. A lot of those shots I got were catch and shoot. You can’t ask for much more than easy looks. It’s a team thing that’s making me look, you know, making it easier on me.”
Believe it or not, Crawford is quickly shaping up to be one of the best stories in an otherwise dismal season in New Orleans. If he can maintain some semblance of efficiency with his scoring while continuing to seek out teammates for ridiculously easy baskets like this one to Davis
Dell Demps is not only going to be forced to give Crawford another 10-day contract or sign him for the rest of the season, but ponder in earnest about offering him a future multiple-year deal, regardless of any salary cap implications.