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Former Net Jamal Crawford staying ready ... in case that final call comes

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been eight months since Jamal Crawford last stepped on the hardwood, where he played his 20th season as a member of the Nets against the Bucks in the Orlando “bubble.” Though his performance was cut short by an untimely hamstring injury, he’s been staying ready for whatever comes next. While he’s working with his kids on their games — and becoming a hoops entrepreneur, he’s not giving up on his NBA dream. The competitive fire is still not squelched.

“We actually have talked to a couple of teams, so we’re seeing where it goes,” said Crawford about a possible 10-day contract this season. “We’ve had conversations, which is the good thing.”

Crawford didn’t detail those conversations in an exclusive interview with NetsDaily, but because he wasn’t on an NBA roster Friday, he would be eligible for the playoffs if signed during the regular season. (The Nets completed their roster on Sunday with the signing of Alize Johnson to a standard NBA deal.)

He hasn’t stopped watching the NBA this season either, particularly his last team. Like the rest of the NBA world, Crawford has taken notice of the superteam brewing in Brooklyn.

When asked if he thinks the Nets can go all the way in the postseason, he didn’t mince words, declaring, “I think they can win it.” He noted that like any championship team, some injury-related luck will be involved. The Nets have lost both Kevin Durant and now James Harden for extended periods of time due to hamstring injuries.

“But assuming everybody’s healthy, I think they’re too deep. I think they’re too good,” said Crawford.

Some of Crawford’s best friends in the NBA are on the Nets. Crawford named former Clippers and Blazers teammates LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and Jeff Green as well as Nets superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. He may not have played with Kai and Kevin —they were out during the “bubble” — but he played a lot of minutes against them. So he knows.

“When the game slows down in the playoffs, you need guys who can create their own shots, especially when the opposition knows the whole playbook,” said Crawford of the Nets. “You need guys [who you can tell] ‘Hey, just go make a play,’ and I think they have a plethora of that and that will play to their hands when it gets late to the Finals.”

The Nets, of course, represent the modernized world of NBA basketball, an offensive utopia that stresses pace, space, and loads of distanced shots. Crawford commented on how the game has changed from when he first entered the league back in the year 2000 and what it means for his friends’ chance in Brooklyn.

“In today’s game, it’s all about shooting, pace and space — even the centers are shooting threes all the time — and record [shooting] numbers are happening,” explained the three-time Sixth Man of the Year.

“I think the game’s always evolving. I remember when I first came into the league, an off-the-dribble 3-point shot was the worst shot in basketball. That was, ‘No, you can get that shot with five seconds on the clock, why are you taking that?’ Now, that same shot is a weapon. If you can shoot further out, it gives you more space. If you have more space, you make your teammates better, because now they have more space to work with.”

When asked about his favorite young players in the league, Crawford rattled off a nice list of well-versed guards, though admittedly a little biased towards some fellow Seattlelites, such as Kevin Porter Jr. and Jaden McDaniels.

“I like Ja Morant a lot. I like Trae Young, obviously. I like Dejounte Murray, I’m biased, but [a] Seattle guy. Zach LaVine, Seattle guy, gotta show him some love. I like a lot of guys, like Devin Booker.”

In talking about his experience with the Nets in the “bubble,” Crawford said that it was an odd process, given the uneasiness of the entire situation. Bottom line, he said, he did it for the love of the game.

“You’re not sure it’s going to happen, period,” said Crawford. “It’s like, what am I staying ready for? Obviously, you wanna play and this and that. Almost like when guys train in the summer, they kind of ramp it up when they know they’re going to training camp, like they have something to shoot for.

“I didn’t really have anything to shoot for, so I was just doing it because I loved it. But it was just different. It’s weird because the pandemic is probably the reason why I got a shot last year, because guys couldn’t go; but it was also the reason I wasn’t all the way there as well because I couldn’t play 5-on-5 for like 4 months.”

So what’s the 41-year-old up to? Working with his kids — and his nephew — in the Pacific Northwest and getting a taste of a new phase of his basketball career. He’s become a hoops entrepreneur.

Since participating in the NBA restart, Crawford’s been staying busy. He’s invested his earnings, but more importantly himself, into a new brand of basketball training: Shoot 360, which blends data and gamification with basketball education. With 13 gyms across America (and counting!), Crawford has played a big role as the company’s brand ambassador, investor, and soon-to-be owner of a Seattle location. Trae Young is also on-board with Shoot 360.

“For me, obviously, my passion is basketball,” explained Crawford. “I don’t wanna just invest into something just to say, okay, I’m making money or trying to make money or whatever. But me, it’s about passion, what I’m really into. And this is pulling my heartstrings, it was a no brainer.”

So, what is Shoot 360? Here’s a look at how it works, courtesy of Sports Dissected by COISKI.

Crawford said he was left in awe the first time he stepped through the doors of a Shoot 360 gym, blissfully unaware of the world he was about to enter.

“When I walked into the facility, I had my son and nephew with me,” said Crawford. “It was like a basketball player’s heaven. So we walk in, we take a step back and look at everything, and my son and nephew immediately run over to the ball-handling station, and they wanna go through workouts. They go through an hour workout. They’re seeing this person come on the screen, an instructor. I train my son and nephew a lot. They’re tired of hearing my voice. The guy on the screen is instructing them, and they’re really into it because they’re trying to show that they can do it.”

Crawford said the kids like the addictive aspect of video games into teaching basketball fundamentals.

“You know, everybody plays video games now, especially kids,” said Crawford. “And so there’s bugs popping onto these screens for the passing part of the workout. So they’re really passing trying to hit the bugs, they’re trying to focus to hit the bugs, they’re laughing (and) having a good time. But they don’t know they’re getting better while they’re doing it — they’re learning how to get the hand-eye coordination, how to hit a target, how to hit a passer in the perfect step before he gets a shot. That stuff is important.”

The next step, he said, is getting the NBA involved. Shoot 360 has partnered with a number of teams (not the Nets) — ”eight or nine”, said a company spokesman. Among them was the Warriors, one of the nine NBA clubs Crawford played for.

As part of his arrangement with Shoot 360, Crawford will get a gym of his own in his hometown of Seattle.

“I feel like once I get my own facility, I’ll be there every single day,” said Crawford, laughing. “You want to find Jamal, go to the facility.”

Or if you want to call him for that final audition.