Jordan Crawford is cooler than a polar bear’s toenails and he believes in talking that shit. He runs on confidence — a confidence that had him sometimes looking off an open DeMarcus Cousins for a contested jumper, trying to crush his cover’s spirit into a urine-soaked diamond.
Yet, the journeyman may have found himself a semi-permanent home in New Orleans after posting the highest PER of his career (17.6) in Alvin Gentry’s system. Crawford also drastically improved his perimeter shooting, converting on a career best 38.9% in his 19 games with the squadron — along with a very solid 48.2% from the field overall. His shooting, finishing, playmaking, and perhaps most importantly, his swagger, were on full display in his very first game for the Pelicans.
He didn’t over defer like some new guys would — he seized the opportunity and put his stamp on that game. It was the perfect extension of his last NBA game when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors in the 2013-14 season and went off for a career-high 41 points.
That Warriors game showed a less efficient, more immature version of the Crawford we saw this year in New Orleans. However, it did show his unwavering confidence and ability to get buckets. It’s amazing how that confidence held up after being out of the league for two years, playing in China, and being buried in the D-League after bouncing around the Eastern Conference for several years.
While New Orleans knew they were getting Crawford’s confidence, they also were getting a more mature and refined version of the volume scorer we had seen in his early NBA career. “Instant Grits,” as Coach Gentry calls Crawford, had a very efficient 56.7% Effective Field Goal Percentage and his focus on finishing around the rim had him converting an insane 82.6% within three feet of the basket.
Crawford is also a better playmaker than Langston Galloway — the irrational confidence guy he replaced in the Pelicans’ backcourt. Green Light Galloway filled that bench chucker role before being included in the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Langston played in 6 more games as a Pelican and had the benefit of training camp, but was clearly out shined by Crawford in their role. Both players are score first guys, but Jordan has been a better playmaker throughout his career — once earning an Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award while running the point for the Celtics — filling in for an injured Rajon Rondo. If you compared Langston and Jordan per 100 possessions Crawford would take 5 more shots per game, but he would also average 6.3 assists to Langston’s 3.8.
With Jrue Holiday’s future uncertain, it is crucial to have this kind of playmaker available to perhaps supplant Holiday — if no other options are found — or to ease some of the playmaking burden if he does return. Pairing Crawford with Holiday is probably the best way to ensure the Pelicans build upon their successful stretch after Boogie’s adjustment period. In five man lineups featuring Holiday and Crawford and without going really small, the Pelicans shined — and big should be the identity going forward. Check out these two lineups that should see significant court time next season if everyone is brought back.
If you dig into all of his lineups, you will see some really bad pairings; however, he still managed to have a net positive in points no matter who else was on court with him.
Remember, he did all of this on a minimum contract. Crawford is real value — especially if he improves on the defensive end. It’s no guarantee that he will, but it is a major point of his offseason focus and we’ve already seen what one training camp under Darren Erman can do for players on that end.
Regardless, his scoring — I’ve been known to say, “No wire coat hangers” in reference to Joan Crawford when Jordan was abusing his cover with nasty one-legged step-back jumpers — and playmaking will create space and opportunity for his teammates to operate. If he cannot fix his defensive flaws, they can at least be more easily covered up with the way this roster is currently constructed and the scheme utilized by the Pelicans.
I was able to have a one-on-one chat with Jordan and we discussed his past, future and all things swagger — check it out:
I consider your confidence to be your greatest asset. Where does that come from?
I’d have to say my parents and my brothers. I’ve been playing basketball for a long time and that was something I always carried with me. I think me being the little brother — following my brother when he was coming up — knowing that he was one of the best basketball players I’ve seen — going against him I got confidence from following him. I just carried that confidence with me. I just always been like that. It helps me to survive in the NBA.
During your college years you sort of famously — yet somewhat anonymously — dunked on LeBron James in a pickup game at his basketball camp. Nike confiscated all videos of the dunk — were you able to get a copy?
Nah, I mean it ended up on Youtube like two weeks later so I was able to see it on Youtube.
How often do you watch it?
Yeah, every once in awhile I click on it — like if I’m just on Youtube bored I click on it for sure. It was funny because right before that when we started playing one of the Nike guys that was with LeBron or something was playing around and said, “$500 for whoever dunks on LeBron.” He didn’t expect it to happen, so it was funny that it happened.
Did you get that $500?
[laughs] No, I didn’t get the $500.
I guess that would have been an NCAA violation.
Is there any old game tape that you watch when you need a little boost?
Yeah, I’d say I go watch Youtube highlights — especially my year at Xavier — I do use that to be like, “yeah I need to get back to that or something.”
If you could have a poster dunk on any other player framed on your wall, who would be your victim?
It would have to be Shaq. Yeah, ‘cause Shaq is just always talking about himself. It gets on my nerves.
Do you have a nemesis in the league?
Nah, not for real, but me getting a dunk period is going to be live so whoever is on the poster going to know I dunked on ‘em.
Who do you hate having to guard?
Probably Klay Thompson. He is a guy that can just always get his shot anytime.
Who gives you the most trouble when they are guarding you?
I’d have to say Tony Allen or Avery Bradley.
You’ve had a lot of really good moments in the NBA including an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award while filling in for an injured Rajon Rondo as the starting point guard in your brief stint in Boston, but you’ve had trouble sticking with teams and in the league. What’s the key to not only getting consistent run with the Pelicans, but to also remaining a NBA player for the foreseeable future?
I’d say you need to look at other players throughout history who have been in my situation and follow what they did and be a professional. I need to keep working on my overall game. As I get older, I get more mature.
You’ve had two different stints in China. I have also lived in Asia for several years and know that it can be quite an adjustment — what were the biggest hurdles to adapting to a new culture?
Mainly just communicating and get what I needed to properly prepare myself for a game. Sometimes I’d get frustrated with how facilities and things were.
Did you reach out to Stephon Marbury for advice?
Nah, not really. I did talk to him a couple of times; I played against him. Mainly it was Bobby Brown and Pooh Jeter that I went to for advice. They were veterans over there too. They really helped me, but really I just took it one day at a time — always knowing what the goal was in the back of my mind.
What’s the strangest situation you found yourself in during your time there?
The strangest thing that happened over there was something happened to my eyelids. My eyelids just wouldn’t open like they are supposed to. I was far away from home and something was wrong with me.
Was it some kind of virus?
It was actually just caused by stress. It came back gradually, but I had to go to doctors and everything. Yeah, I was nervous.
In Boston you played with Kevin Garnett, whom Anthony Davis has been compared to since being drafted. How would you compare those two players?
On the court they can kind of do similar things. Defensively, KG loves checking bigs — taking on a challenge. He took pride in every single possession. I think AD can be doing the same thing. He grabs every rebound — creates offensive scoring with his rebounds. Off the court, AD is a little more quiet. I think that’s what Kevin Garnett’s biggest strength was — he was a monster on the court, but he was even a bigger influence off the court. He portrayed himself in a certain way and lived up to it and that would trickle down through the whole locker room.
Obviously, the two players have very different personalities and temperaments. Kevin Garnett is known for being such a brutal trash talker. How effective do you think those kind of mind games are in a game?
Yeah, trash talking is a very effective tool. It’s how you use it. When you are clever with it, that’s when it works.
Is that part of your game?
Yeah it is. When I do it, I find myself playing better. I get more locked in. It’s actually more of a thing to get you going than to affect someone else.
Alvin Gentry is known for being a run-and-gun ball-movement 7 seconds or less coach. How do you think this Pelicans team fits that kind of approach following the DeMarcus Cousins acquisition?
It fits. You have the personnel to run it. DeMarcus is a slower guy, but he can trail on the break and shoot the three. The biggest thing is AD and Cousins learning how to play together more than just the system.
Have you noticed changes in the way the staff approached the offense down the stretch?
Yeah, they were definitely doing new things to try to get those guys get each other in rhythm. They started opening the court up for each other. It was about making both of them feeling comfortable and that they were a part of the game. It’s important to make both guys happy. I’ve seen a lot of that.
Do you think having two dominant bigs in the era of small ball perimeter play gives you more of an advantage or a disadvantage?
The way those two play, it’s an advantage. Their skills are small ball-like. They are just big dudes, which adds to it.
I once witnessed David Wesley being asked to autograph a David West basketball card. How many times have people thought you were Jamal Crawford?
All the time. That’s all I get. It’s funny because for us to have similar names and for us to go about the game kind of the same way it’s always going to confuse people.
Yeah, I was going to say you are kind of similar players. You are basically the same size, are very confident scorers who mainly have been bench spark-plugs and are both solid secondary ball handlers. Is he someone you have modeled your game off of?
Nah, not really. I mean, I didn’t hear of him until he came to Michigan. It’s really just that our names are similar. It is funny.
Are there any players whose signature moves you’ve tried to add to your game?
I study the way Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving finish. Looking at different ways of finishing around the rim. Different layups and stuff like that — so I can use them right. Finishing at the rim is something I wanted to improve on because I used to have to always shoot floaters when I got into the lane in the NBA. I wasn’t like Kyrie and them that could get a regular layup. I wanted to really add that so I’d have an easier way of scoring — and a get yourself going type thing.
You have that ability to get unbelievably hot. What do you think demoralizes your defender more when you are in that zone — a pull up contested three or a dribble move, blow by dunk?
A contested three for sure. What’s demoralizing the most with that, they know I’m going to shoot. Some guys can get hot, but sometimes they defer a little bit. With me they know like, “he ain’t going to stop till he comes out the game.” So that puts fear in them.
Have the Pelicans given you any kind of guidance on what they want you working on this off season?
Yeah, they want me to work on defense. Getting better on defense allows me to stay on the court. Also, just learn how to play with the other players and with my shooting that’ll be a win-win.
With Jrue Holiday’s free agency looming, has the team discussed various roles for you depending on the outcome of that key backcourt decision?
They haven’t really talked about if Jrue will stay or not, but they mentioned that I can definitely play make for other guys. We talked about getting the ball in my hands and getting the offense moving. Things like that — helping Jrue out sometimes when the defense is keying in on him.
What’s the general mood in the locker room heading into next season?
That we can’t just accept 82 games and then summer time; it’s get to the playoffs. In the back of everyone’s heads, it was knowing this was the last year of this.
You’ve been given the nickname, “Instant Grits.” If you and Tim Frazier or even Quinn Cook share significant backcourt minutes, could we call it the, “Shrimp and Grits” lineup?
[laughs] We could do well with that.
Speaking of nicknames, I’ve taken to calling DeMarcus, “Splash Mountain” for his three point stroke and stature — yay or nay?
Haha, you’d have to ask DeMarcus about that. You know how he is, but yeah that’s a good one.
I want to personally thank Jordan Crawford and his agent, Darrell Comer, for their time and making this interview possible.