We don’t know yet what Jamal Crawford will bring to the Nets once real games start a week from Friday. If we think we know, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. He is, after all, 40 years old and hasn’t played in the NBA for the past 15 months. Still, fans are excited about the possibility of Crawford being part of the Nets going forward.
And while Crawford has openly expressed how much he likes the Nets organization and how much fun he’s having with the Nets younger players, he won’t discuss his future beyond this tenure with Brooklyn’s “bubble” team.
“It’s a fun group. I love to be around them,” said Crawford on Howard Beck’s “Full 48” podcast. adding, “I love the organization. A cool place to be.”
All that said, Crawford told Beck he “hasn’t thought about next season” in Brooklyn or anywhere else. He learned a tough lesson, he said, while waiting for the phone call that would bring him back to the NBA for his 20th season at age 40.
“Because last year I definitely showed I could still play. I know I’m going to get a contract offer. I knew it! I’m like I just won Teammate of the Year. I just showed I could still score. I can still do things at a high level,” he said, describing his frustration last summer. “I’m going to get a contract offer. And I planned it like that and nothing came about. That taught me a lesson like, wow, that went nothing like you thought it would. So for me, I just want to stay right here in the moment.”
He noted as well that even after teams decimated by the coronavirus needed players, nothing much happened then either.
“And then the restart is in effect and then I’m not really generating a lot of interest. I’m talking to teams, but not a ton of interest. It’s not, ‘hey come here and this and that.’ So I’m thinking this is getting really close to the end.”
He told Beck he has “no agenda” other than to help the Nets now.
“So for me, I don’t want to look too far ahead in my approach. I don’t want to come out and say, hey, I’m going to score 50 a game just to prove to you guys that I should be in the game either. I just want to enjoy the moment. Whatever it calls for, I don’t want to come in with an agenda and say I’m going to score 40 every night and I don’t want to come in just do the leadership thing either. I want to do whatever is called upon, whatever’s needed in these next however many months we’re together and that’s my only approach...”
When Beck asked about what Sean Marks and Jacque Vaughn told him when they approached him, Crawford said they wanted both his experience and his skillset.
“The were, ‘We want your leadership, obviously ... can’t shake that when you’re the oldest guy in the league. You’ve seen a lot, so you got to provide leadership ... but they want me to play. they want me to provide scoring, they want me to provide playmaking,” he said of the conversation.
On veteran leadership, Crawford said he wants the younger players to believe they can ask him about anything but he noted that he’s “tried to see guys get better and just try to enjoy the whole process of this.
In fact, he said, his overarching advice to young players is, “You have two ears and one mouth so you have to listen twice as much as you talk.”
One younger player he already knows will ask questions is fellow Michigan product Caris LeVert who he calls, “Vert.” Crawford again offered high praise for the Nets swingman.
“He’s a little bit of everything, like a Swiss Army Knife.” Crawford said of his fellow Wolverine. “But he can really really score. he can really pass. he has a great feel for the game. I see him ... he has a little bit of Penny Hardaway in his game. I think he has Joe Johnson in his game as well. Those are two players that jump out to me.
“He’s bigger than you think he is. He has more size that you think he does. he can do everything on the court. And he’s so humble. He has such humility about him. he’s always asking questions. He’s always working on his game. He’s always trying to get better. Guys like that are driven. He’ll be a star, no doubt about it.”
So when will fans see him take the court so they debate whether the Nets should bring him back? Crawford was non-committal. He didn’t play in the first scrimmage on Wednesday and won’t play on Saturday either. There’s no guarantee he even plays in the third scrimmage on Monday. Nothing’s wrong, he says.
“Just ramping up. Obviously not playing in 15 months, not playing 5-on-5 in four months, you don’t want to go right back at it. So we’re just being smart, picking our spots building up until the season gets started up. We’re being smart about how we approach it. I’ll be okay.”
Bottom line after all the waiting and now life in the “bubble,” Crawford pointed to where he’s at. “Stay in the moment because I wasn’t in this position three weeks ago.”