Will The Basketball God's Finally Give Jamal Crawford A Break?
Jamal Crawford is a nine year NBA veteran. In that time he has gone from promising rookie to fringe All-star, bouncing in and out of the starting line-ups of the Bulls, Knicks, and Warriors.
He has had unbelievable success throughout his career, becoming the fourth player in NBA history to have 50 plus points in a game on three different teams.
He was the eighth overall pick in the 2000 draft, and he makes almost ten million dollars a year.
So how could Crawford possibly be cursed? Well, for one thing, he is the longest serving NBA player to NOT make the NBA playoffs.
Yes, the man who has been overlooked every year he’s been in the league has yet to make his post season debut. The main reason he has yet to play in the post season is simple; the man has never played on a good team.
From 2000-2004, he played for the Chicago Bulls. In his first three seasons Crawford was inconsistent and the team was in chaos.
In Crawford’s first season, the Bulls had the worst record in franchise history, 15-67, even with defending rookie of the year Elton Brand leading the way. Crawford played sparingly, playing 17 minutes a game and averaging 4.6 points.
In his sophomore year, 2002, the Bulls traded away their franchise cornerstone and leader, Brand, in favour of the second and fourth picks in the draft, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. Both came straight out of high school and needed time to develop, and Chicago only won 21 games. Crawford only played in 23 games due to injury, but improved his points per game to 9.3.
In his third season, Crawford again proved his willingness to improve. He played 80 games, starting 31, and averaged 10.7 points per game. Chicago had a new point guard in rookie Jay Williams, as well as Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, Curry, and Chandler, and appeared to be building a team that could one day compete for a title. The Bulls won 30 games that year.
2003-2004, Crawford proved he was a starter in this league. He improved his points per game by nearly seven points, ending with 17.3 per game. He put up statistical bests in every non shooting category, but his team digressed. Williams had a career ending motorcycle accident, while Curry and Chandler struggled to stay healthy. The Bulls ended the season with 23 wins, second worse in the league, leading to the Bulls sign-and-trading Crawford that offseason to the Knicks for expiring contracts.
The next year the Bulls would make the playoffs, and Crawford would be playing for the Knicks.
Crawford hoped his move to New York would mean a chance at the playoffs, as the Knicks had qualified the year before, and had a dynamic and proven point guard in Stephon Marbury. Crawford teamed with Marbury to create a talented backcourt that could score with ease. In his first season, Crawford played in 70 games, starting 67, and averaging 17.7 points per game. The Knicks, however, continued their nosedive into the abyss, compiling a 33-49 record, and missing the playoffs.
With Isiah Thomas as their General Manager, the Knicks became a laughing stock in the NBA. They had a league high $130 million payroll, yet finished with a record of 23-59, again missing the playoffs. Crawfords minutes and points per game took a dive, as did the Knicks. Things looked bad for Crawford and his journey to the post season.
2007-2008, Crawford once again proved he deserved better then the Knicks could offer. While Thomas was busy trading away anyone he could in order to field a worthwhile team, Crawford was putting together his best season as a pro. He started all 80 games he played, and averaged 20.6 points per game. He had a career high 52 on January 26th, but the Knicks had little else to help Crawford, and the team again missed the postseason, compiling a record of 23-59, along with many embarrassing defeats.
Eleven games into his fifth season with the Knicks, and ninth in the league, Crawford was traded to Golden State for Al Harrington. Injuries to their star player, Monta Ellis, as well as chemistry issues with their high profile free agent, Corey Maggette, derailed what could have been a regrouping season for the Warriors in 2008-2009.
Crawford started all 65 games he played, but was in the doghouse with Coach Don Nelson after he refused to play after being benched. Once it was clear that the Warriors were out of playoff contention, Nelson benched Crawford in order to play his younger players. Crawford took exception, and refused to play afterwards. Crawford averaged 19.7 points per game in his one and only season with the Warriors.
In the offseason, Crawford was traded to Atlanta for point guards Acie Law and Speedy Claxton. He will start the 2009-2010 season as either the Hawks sixth man, or possible starting two guard if they decide to go small. Atlanta is a team that has made tremendous strides the past couple of seasons, going from laughing stock of the league to legitimate playoff contenders.
So is this the season the Crawford finally sees post season action? The East has dramatically improved, which could spell disaster for the Hawks and Crawford. Preseason outlooks show the Hawks finishing as a likely sixth to eighth seed, which leaves a lot of uncertainty to Crawford’s bid at the post season.
While we still have to wait to see how the season plays out, it will be interesting to see if the Basketball God’s will be smiling at Crawford’s good fortune, or laughing at his continued futility.
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