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Jamal Crawford on his short stint with Nets: More important than 51-point game

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the mysteries of Brooklyn’s off-season is whether Jamal Crawford will return to the Nets whenever the season starts up. He was signed as a substitute player just before the Nets set up shop in the “bubble” but the team doesn’t have any rights to him in free agency.

He said back in July that he “loves the organization,” calling it “a cool place to be” and “a lot of fun,” but added he hadn’t thought about next season.

In September, Kevin Durant has said he’s like to see Crawford back. “I would love to have him on the team, but I don’t know.”

Around the same time, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reported after interviewing Steve Nash, “The Nets are also expected to re-sign veteran free agent guard Jamal Crawford.” Spears quoted “a source.”

Still, the 40-year-old’s return remains uncertain. He surely values that short stint he played with Brooklyn vs. the Bucks in a seeding game. He played only six minutes before a left hamstring strain did him in, tallying five points and three assists. So much so he told the Hoop Narrative podcast that those few minutes helped his psyche more than the 51-point game he had in his last game in 2018-19. Crawford famously couldn’t get an NBA gig until Sean Marks signed him in July.

“I had been practicing and the practices for my teammates and for the coaches and for everybody with the Nets,” Crawford said, describing the game on the podcast. “The game looked just like the practices did, so it didn’t shock them. The only part that shocked them was, ‘Man, he hasn’t played an actual game in 16 months.’ And I’m not just coming back against a team that was weak. At the time [the Milwaukee Bucks] were No. 1 in the league.”

Specifically, Crawford’s appearance gave him 20 years in a league, a milestone only seven other players in NBA history had achieved. More than that, Crawford said, he proved to himself that he could still play.

“I had three assists before I took a shot. So once I hit the first shot, then I scored again and I’m looking at who’s guarding me. And I’m looking at their eyes, and now they’re starting to look around for help when I’m coming down the court. I’m like ‘Oh I got ’em.’ he said.

“I promise you, I was like ‘I’m about to paint a masterpiece.’ I promise you, every minute I would’ve played — in five minutes I had five points and three assists, if I would’ve played 20 minutes I was going to have 20 points and eight assists. … I thought it would take longer to come back, [but] it was back.”

He described the response he got that afternoon in Orlando.

“In those five minutes, I had so many messages,” he said. “I didn’t have as many messages as when I signed [with the Nets], but I had messages from people in the league like, ‘Man, look like you ain’t even miss a beat.’

“In a weird way, it was almost like those five minutes did for me what the 50-point game couldn’t do. It was like, [after] those five minutes, people was like, ‘Oh he’s still got it. We gonna holler at him next year.’”

Indeed, as Nick Friar of USA Today wrote, it gave him confidence that unlike last season, he believes he won’t have to wait till Game 70 as he did last season.

“I, realistically, think it’s going to happen,” he said. “And I don’t think it will take as long as it did before.”