Jamal Crawford was back on an NBA court Wednesday, even if it’s located at a family resort ... in a “bubble.” For the first time since April 9, 2019 when dropped 51 points for the Suns, he was lacing them up.
Already the league’s oldest player (now that Vince Carter has officially retired), he passed the league’s quarantine and coronavirus tests. Now, he’s ready to pass a number of milestones in a few weeks when he hits the court for real for the Nets.
As Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic noted, he’ll have played in three different decades — the ‘00s, the ‘10s, and the ‘20s — and he’ll be twice as old (40) as when he debuted (20). He’ll also be just the 45th NBA player ever to play for at least nine teams.
After not getting calls last summer and sitting out the season and the stoppage, he was initially shocked when the call came from Brooklyn.
“It didn’t feel real in some sense,” Crawford said during the Nets’ Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “I was going to sleep that night, and I woke up like, ‘Did this really happen, or was I dreaming? Did the Nets really call and I really signed a contract with them or agreed to a contract?’ And it was real.
“I thank God. I thank all the people that supported me, and it’s a blessing, it really is, because I’ve been on the outside for a year, and once it gets to a certain point, you’re not sure that call’s going to happen, and you kind of have to face that reality as well.”
Jacque Vaughn who also had Tyler Johnson in practice for the first time Wednesday said he hoped Crawford could fill a number of roles, some on the court, some off.
“We’ll use his ability to understand what we’re in, give some calm to some of the younger guys on the staff and also be able to produce,” Vaughn told reporters. “What’s that going to look like on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis? I think only time will tell.
“My only thoughts conveyed to him was we have to have an extreme, honest relationship, and when he’s feeling it or not feeling it, that communication has to be there. So we’ll be very smart how we use him, but his ability just to play the game of basketball and provide opportunities for shots for himself and others, it’s definitely going to be needed because he can create his own shot.”
Crawford didn’t say he had a chip on his shoulder after being passed over by all 30 NBA teams, but he sounded like he’s ready to proved he can still play. He admitted to frustration after he sat for so long.
“To be honest with you, I went through a range of emotions,” Crawford said. “I was frustrated at the beginning. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what happened. I was like, ‘Well, character-wise, I just won ‘Teammate of the Year,’ (in 2018), so I think that part’s solid as far as being in the locker room. Obviously, I had a different role as far as leadership last year, but when the time came, like, ‘Hey, go play,’ I was able to still show I can play at a high level, so I didn’t understand it.
“But at that point, I just took it the other way. I was like, ‘If God said your last game is a 51-point game off the bench, then that’s a heckuva exit.’ So I try to find the peace within that, and I got a chance to spend time with my family. But I’m so happy to be back.”
What sustained him through the year between missing out in free agency and signing with the Nets?
“When you’re in love with it, you’re willing to do anything it takes,” Crawford said.
Crawford admitted that he consulted with his wife and son about joining the “bubble,” with all its risks. They agreed that despite the risks and the sacrifices, they were on board, telling him he had to do it.
“For me it was a no-brainer,” he said. “An opportunity to play on a team that’s in the playoff hunt, a team that is trying to look to improve with vets out, I feel like for me it would be a great situation and I was honored that I got the call.”
Just how excited? On Thursday morning, the Nets released a video of his and Johnson’s debut.
"Like a kid the night before Christmas"— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) July 16, 2020
Get a look inside @JCrossover and @RealTJohnson's first practice with the squad pic.twitter.com/oFwwz4Refb
His return to the games was applauded around the league, which Crawford found encouraging and endearing.
“It meant so much,” Crawford told reporters. “Obviously, having your peers’ respect is everything. I learned that a long time ago: that some people see you one way, some people see you another way, but having your peers’ respect is what’s really important. So for all those guys to tweet that and support it, it made me feel really good — thankful for it, humbled by it and really, really blessed.”
Crawford declined to talk about the possibility of playing with the Nets, many of whom are friends including as he called them “Ky and Caris” as well as Kevin Durant.
“No. I haven’t thought about it,” Crawford said. “If you have plans, God will tell you, ‘That’s kind of funny. Let me show you this.’ So for me I’m just trying to stay in the moment, not take any of it for granted and just really enjoy this process that I’m in right now. The future will be the future: But now I want to focus on what’s in front of me.”
Durant on the other hand left no doubt about how he feels about JCrossover joining his team...
Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer offered both hope and skepticism about what Crawford can do in the short span of the “bubble.”
Jamal Crawford is 40. In the last game he played, last season’s Suns regular-season finale, he dropped 51 points. Crawford’s buckets largely came in garbage time as Phoenix trailed Dallas, but it did follow a string of successful games for the three-time Sixth Man of the Year. He scored 27, 28, and 19 points in his three prior games. The problem is Crawford looked his age for the 60 games before that, averaging 6.4 points on 36 percent shooting while playing old-man defense. It took the Nets losing nearly their entire roster for Crawford to get a chance to play basketball again.
O’Connor also suggests that the Nets might be using Crawford more as a playmaker.
- Jamal Crawford says NBA career looked over before Nets called - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Getting back to NBA action hasn’t been easy for Jamal Crawford, but he appreciates the opportunity with the Nets - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets’ Jamal Crawford out to prove he’s still got it - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- A call from Nets thrills a humble Jamal Crawford - Steve Popper - Newsday
- JAMAL CRAWFORD GETS STARTED ON SEASON NO. 20 - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets