Allen Crabbe has had enough.
Early on in what is now a five-year NBA career, long before establishing a reputation as a dead-eye shooter (prompting the Nets to offer him that monstrous contract), the Brooklyn Nets shooting guard was known as a solid defender.
Last season, there was some slippage.
His defensive plus/minus (-3.33), field goal percentage differential (-2.5) and on/off differential (4.3) were some of the lower-rated defensive analytics across the league.
But in the 98-95 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night, he made key defensive plays all throughout the game, including significant contributions to a handful of stops late in the fourth quarter. Although Crabbe registered 15 points and 8 rebounds and shot 50% from three, the most eye-popping stat came under “Blocks,” where he led the team with three, also his career high.
Crabbe’s ultimate message? Take that for data!
…Okay, not really, but still, he’s over the defensive criticisms, and wants to re-establish his credibility on that side of the floor.
"I'm low-key tired of hearing people trying to question my defense,” said Crabbe after the win over Orlando. “Coming over here in this new role, there's a lot of expectations now.
“I don't want to be the liability, especially in film the next day if coach points out things that went wrong that night. Just knowing if my shot is not going, obviously I've been in mind of a slump lately, I could impact the game in other ways and I feel like that starts with defense."
Coming into the league as an early second draft choice in 2013 out of the University of California, Crabbe knew that he had to be a two-way player in order to stick. He did grow into a three-point specialist, but he was initially noticed by Portland’s scouting staff because of his defense, he remembers.
"When you first get to the league they don't need you to score,” said Crabbe. “We already had enough guys on that roster. They (Portland) just pulled me aside and told me 'how you are going to get recognized on this team is by the energy that you bring.' I feel like it started with that. I had a down year last year with it so, like I said, it's a new team, new chapter for my career, and I wanted to start off right over here."
The slumping sniper has witnessed his three-point shooting dip from an elite level 44.4% last season, to a good, but not nearly as deadly, 35.8% in his first season with the Nets. In fact, before shooting 3-of-6 against the Magic, Crabbe had only hit 27.2% from deep over an 11-game stretch from December 9 to December 31.
But forget that. His goal is not only to continue, or in this case, return to his previous ways of perimeter precision, evolve into an all-around contributor.
“I'm just trying to get back to old habits,” he said. “If one thing is not clicking, not one dimensional - I just want to show the arsenal – just expand the game."
Kenny Atkinson has been a huge supporter of Crabbe since day one. Actually even before Day One. He wanted Crabbe last year before Portland matched on the Nets offer sheet. He’s also been resolute in promoting Crabbe’s defensive abilities ... on multiple occasions.
After Crabbe’s effort on “D” Monday night, Atkinson reiterated the point one more time, using a special ‘u’ word ... Underrated.
"I think he's a smart defender, he's a long defender, he understands positioning, his rebounding numbers are up over his career, so I think he is an underrated defender, I've said that from the beginning,” said Atkinson, expressing confidence in Crabbe. “He's just a really good all-around player. That's why we love him."
Could this be a turnaround game for the 25-year-old? Tune in again Wednesday when he and the Nets will face the Timberwolves, with Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins.