Jamal Crawford: Atlanta’s Ace-in-the-Hole
The Atlanta Hawks were down 4 points with 10 seconds to go against the Phoenix Suns when Jamal Crawford began to wave his magic wand…
The Hawks got within 2 points after Amare Stoudamire hit only 1 of 2 foul shots, and Hawks coach Mike Woodson called a timeout. He aimed to draw up a play for an easy basket. If you’re not into basketball let me explain:
When you’re down 2 points the other team is deathly afraid to foul you because they don’t want to give you a 3-point play as you go to the basket. Well, Mike Woodson drew up such a play, but Jamal Crawford told his coach “I want the final shot”.
Coming out of a timeout…
Crawford as the “Sixth Man”
Jamal Crawford came over to the Hawks from Golden State in a trade for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton’s expiring contract – around these parts we like to say that Speedy has nice suits.
The move was an admission that Acie Law was not the “answer” at point guard for Atlanta after they took him 11th overall in 2007. This also meant there would be room for a “young buck” to learn and mature under the veteran Mike Bibby.
After being a “shot-taker” for the Hawks all season Crawford has stirred up all kinds of “sixth man of the year” talk. Now I’m wondering how long before Crawford begins to slowly sponge minutes from some of Atlanta’s starters.
If the Hawks want to go small they could go with Crawford in the line-up instead of Marvin Williams, or they could use Crawford instead of Josh Smith to get a 3-man backcourt.
There is no limit to the holes Crawford can plug and eventually he could replace Mike Bibby. I’m not saying that the Hawks need to abandon Bibby, but Crawford is a very fresh “almost 30″ while Bibby is a very old 31. I know the difference is slight, but Bibby is my age and seems SO much older than me.
What if the Hawks Start Crawford Just For “Funsies”?
Crawford is getting 30 minutes a night and he seems to be well-suited to coming off the bench. Let’s draw a comparison to a “Superstar 6th Man”:
Lamar Odom has no problem coming off the bench for the Lakers. He can start every now and then, but he couldn’t start for a whole season. Plus, it would screw up his rhythm–as it has in the past–if he started the majority of the time.
The 30 minutes that Crawford’s getting every game is enough to mess with the opposition when they MUST sub guys in who are inferior to Crawford.
Imagine if Crawford had to face everyone’s “best” every night. What then? He’d become Bobby Jackson.
Bobby Jackson won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2003 after starting 26 of 59 games he played in. Bobby Jackson was the “6th man of 6th men” for almost his whole career. The problem is that he got rewarded for it in the season where he started the second most games of his career. He started 53 games for Denver in 97-98 when he was a highly touted rookie.
What happened after that? He played a total of 75 games in the next two seasons combined. Then he went to Memphis and ran to the playoffs in 2006. After that he limped through 3 seasons and somehow managed to play 81 games for the Kings before retiring at the end of last season.
You know what broke him? Expectation. Bobby started so many games in his “6th man season” that everyone thought he was Superman. Starting Bobby at random screwed up his rhythm and made him prone to injury.
He’s a Ringer…
Jamal hasn’t started game number one for the Hawks and he shouldn’t, not for any reason. Look at what happened to Bobby Jackson. Lamar Odom started 77 of 77 games he played in 2007-2008 and what happened? The Lakers fizzled in the Finals.
If you pay some kid 5 bucks to be a ringer at your sandlot kickball game you can only bring him that ONE time. After that he isn’t a ringer anymore and the kids on the other side will know how to deal with him–probably by beating him up. Plus, you’ll go broke paying this kid 5 bucks every day to play kickball.
Jamal can only be Atlanta’s “ace-in-the-hole” if he’s coming into the game off the bench, and every time he does the opposing coach says, “Damn! They put Crawford in!” Why? Because the opposing coach knows he’s outmatched until he can get a starter back in to deal with Jamal.
The Telling Stat
As I’ve been hinting, the telling stat this season for Atlanta is the “GS” column for Jamal Crawford. If Jamal has a zero in the “Games Started” column the Hawks will make it to the East Finals. No doubt. Every time that number gets bigger the Hawks’ chances slowly fade.
The Magic’s 6th man committee consists of: J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Jason Williams. None of those guys can hold Crawford’s jock. Moreover, the only good shooter of the group is Redick and he was a better shooter in college than he is now. He certainly isn’t as good as Crawford right now.
The Celtics’ 6th man is either Sheed or Eddie House. Sheed’s older than dirt and Eddie House wears a headband, yells a lot, and occasionally makes a nice shot.
Cleveland has no 6th man because they have no one outside LeBron and Varejao. In a crunch situation, a spot the Cavs don’t play well in, Crawford would chew up and spit out anyone the Cavs might sub in on his shift.
You know the best part? No other Eastern Conference contender has a dude who plays as much as Crawford yet never starts.
Is He “The One”?
In “The Matrix” when Neo gets shot up by Agent Smith and rises from his own ashes, Morpheus just stands there dumbfounded and says, “He’s ‘The One”. Don’t you think Mike Woodson said the same thing Saturday night when a dude who hasn’t started ONE FREAKIN’ GAME says “I want the final shot”… and made it?
Jamal Crawford is the “Keymaster” and Mike Woodson is the “Gatekeeper”. Jamal hands the Hawks a key to East Finals if Mike Woodson keeps the starter’s gate closed to him all season. It’s as simple as that.