The preseason has shown that Hawks rookie Jordan Crawford is, as advertised, a scorer.
After three games, he’s fourth in the league with 21 points per game and the leading scorer among rookies. Yeah, he’s playing crazy minutes–break it down per 48 minutes and he drops down to 64th in preseason scoring– but he’s shooting 48 percent.
That’s nothing but good news for the Hawks, who need to develop young players for a time when their “core” philosophy runs its course. But it’s not so valuable now because of the way Atlanta’s roster is built. As it stands, Crawford actually would be more valuable to the Hawks if he were a stopper rather than a scorer (and better still if he were three inches taller and played small forward).
The Hawks don’t lack for guards who can score. J.J. is an All-Star scorer. Jamal is a Sixth Man Award scorer. Bibby isn’t a dynamic scorer but spot him up at the 3-point line and he will score.
The way Crawford could differentiate himself from those players is to become an effective defender. Then he would have a specific role off the bench this season with the Hawks not losing anything offensively and maybe even realizing a net gain.
That’s going to take some time.
“My challenge with him is defensively,” L.D. said. “He needs to take more of a challenge. Every rookie that comes in the league, that is where they have to establish themselves first so they can send out the message that they are not going to be a liability on the defensive end. He can score the ball. We all know we can do that.”
JC2 already has gotten a taste of what it’s like to defend the perimeter in the NBA. He’s banged against hard screens set by big men while chasing the likes of O.J. Mayo, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Nick Young, and Kirk Hinrich.
The constant motion and contact is a physical challenge.
“More importantly, good defensive players anticipate the action before it happens,” L.D. said. “His tendency if he is away from the ball is to relax. He has to get better at being ready to defend. If I am watching our last two games, if I’m the opponent, that would be a glaring thing I would see right off the bat. His tendency on the weak side is to relax, therefore he becomes an easy target to screen.
“What I am trying to work with him on is, first of all, the mindset. You can’t relax on defense. Your mindset has to be to defend for 18, 19, 20 seconds. The minute you relax, you get popped with a screen and now the separation takes place and now you are scrambling.”
L.D. showed JC2 clips of times that’s happened to him in the preseason and he said the rookie was receptive. For Crawford to get better on defense, L.D. said “the instincts have to kick in and the basketball savvy has to kick in” but he also has to see situations more often so he can anticipate them.
As an example, L.D. said a point guard should know that when his man dribbles to the wing, there’s a high probability the play is a pick-and-roll. The defender should be prepared to execute his defensive coverage before the play happens but (understandably) JC2 isn’t to that point yet.
“I kid around with him and tell him at Xavier they just wanted him to score and defense became secondary,” L.D. said. “Whereas here it’s got to be the flip side. He has got to be thinking defense. I know he can score. He’s got to get better defensively.”
Bibby (back) didn’t practice today and is questionable to play tomorrow vs. the Hornets. Teague is out. Jamal, Twin, Mo and Marvin all practiced and are expected to play. Al said his ankle is getting stronger and he plans to play more minutes . . .
Word is the return of more regulars has meant spirited practices the last two days. The second team won today’s scrimmage 18-6 with Jamal leading the way.
“Intense,” Al said. “The two best practices this year, really. Guys are really getting after it. It’s been getting heated out there but that’s what it’s all about. That is showing signs of us getting better and caring, and that’s encouraging to me.” . . .
No news on extension negotiations between Al’s reps and the Hawks.
“We are still talking to the team,” he said. “I just hope it gets done.”
They’ve got until Nov. 1.