Atlanta Hawks: In appreciation of Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford is back in town, which got me to thinking about the clip above. That was my very first game covering the Hawks as the AJC beat writer. It turned out it was a proper introduction to Crawford, who loved those big moments and wanted to deliver with crowd-pleasing flair. He always joked he had “street cred” among Hawks fans, and it was true.

In a way, Crawford might have been the best example of that what bugs stats folks about the Hawks: He could do things that confound the formulas. Viewed in the aggregate over the long term, Crawford’s numbers seem pedestrian. But if you spent too much time picking at his weaknesses, you could miss that he often delivered in big games and important moments like the one above.

Think back to Atlanta’s playoffs series victory against Orlando last season. The No. 1 story, as it should have been, was Larry Drew’s successful Twin Defense against Dwight Howard. Crawford’s performance during that series should have been a close second. The Hawks probably don’t win without Crawford delivering all those daggers.

This befuddled Stan Van Gundy, a noted early adopter of advanced stats. I kept asking him if Atlanta’s ability to make long 2s, the most inefficient shot in basketball, threw a wrench into his defensive philosophy. Van Gundy kept interrupting: “But it is an efficient shot for them.” He marveled at Crawfor’d ability to make contested J after contested J. Van Gundy never did figure out how to stop Atlanta’s perimeter-oriented attack, and Crawford was a key part of that. Didn’t the book on the Hawks say they wilted when things got tough? Crawford didn’t.

Crawford did it again during Atlanta’s memorable Game 1 victory at Chicago. Alas, he couldn’t keep it up once the Bulls started sending multiple defenders to crowd him. He did pretty much all he could do, which was to make quick decisions and keep the ball moving and hope others would to the same until Atlanta could get good shots. Joe Johnson didn’t do the same, and Atlanta’s offense bogged down in the face of Chicago’s withering waves of defenders.

You can talk about Crawford’s inefficient scoring but he was more efficient than Johnson last season. The same thing was true in 2009-10, when Crawford also produced points at a higher rate than Johnson. The dude put up numbers.

Of course, Crawford isn’t Johnson’s equal as a player, but he was effective (and fun) when Woody unleashed him as a designated scorer off the bench. Remember that Crawford’’s rep before he arrived in Atlanta was that of a scorer on bad teams who played no defense. With the Hawks Crawford proved that, when properly deployed, he could be a key piece on a good team.

Obviously Crawford’s defense has been subpar over his career. But I watched nearly every one of Atlanta’s defensive possessions during the Orlando series on Synergy and, I swear to you, the Hawks’ funky pick-and-roll defense would not have worked without Crawford doing his part. As the on-the-ball defender Crawford had to make up a lot of ground to get to Orlando’s shooters, and he did it with an engaged and focused effort. It was Crawford on the big stage doing more than his history suggested he could do.

No doubt Crawford soured on his experience with the Hawks last season. Management told him he was part of team’s “core” but then he was the only member of that group without a contract beyond last year. And then the Hawks basically told him they couldn’t afford him last summer. You can agree with Atlanta’s reasoning for not giving him a big contract (but also acknowledge how the team’s earlier cap mismanagement led to that situation) while also understanding why Crawford didn’t like it.

Eventually Crawford got with the program last season. That was true even after L.D. put Crawford in a play-making role that Crawford clearly wasn’t comfortable with–he went on to post his best assist rate since 2003-04 while keeping his turnover rate low. Crawford’s drop-off in production last season and the guards who flooded the free-agent market probably cost him a lot of money.

Now Crawford is off to a slow start with Portland but is there any doubt he’s going to try to put on a show tonight like old times?

“I am sure Jamal is going to want to come in here and light us up,” Drew said. “I do know that.”

There was a mixed reaction among fans when the team made no real effort to re-sign him before he bolted for Portland. It probably fell along that efficiency/electricity divide. But there is little doubt Crawford will receive a warm welcome tonight from Hawks fans. He won them over with his big shots, flashy style and engaging personality. You can still see the love Hawks fans have for Crawford on his Twitter account.

And the preseason lobbying of management to re-sign Crawford by Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford illustrated how his old teammates feel about Crawford.

“I wish him nothing but the best but at the same time I want to win [tonight],” Smith said. “It will be good to see him and interact with him but when it’s time to jump the ball he’s just another opponent.”

Look deeply into the stats and you can convince yourself that, over the long term, Crawford is just another shooting guard. But then you remember moments like my first game on the Hawks beat, and that Orlando series last season, and you realize that Crawford can confound the numbers and be much more than that.

(Leaving the previous blog open for voting through tomorrow.)

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

139 comments Add your comment

KevinM

January 18th, 2012
1:31 pm

Good writeup MC, and this year, Sund has proven, not signing JC1 so far was a good decision. He did cost too much, but that is based on the rest of our roster, not JC1’s value.
LD sounds like he is expecting JC1 to get a lot of shots up tonight.

O'Brien

January 18th, 2012
1:32 pm

FTPB,

MC,

I’m disappointed in you. You had a chance to ask Josh about his FT shooting…and you didn’t (unless I missed it). Is he spending extra time shotting FTs after practice? Is he watching himself on film to see what he’s doing differently? Is one of the assistant coaches working with him?

Prior to this year, his worst year was ‘08-’09 when he shot 59% from the line. His career average is 67%. But this year, he is at 49%.

T-Mac wants him to go to the line 8-10 times a game? If that happens, Josh will only make 4-5. And we’ve already lost at least 1 game (at Chi) due to missed FTs.

O'Brien

January 18th, 2012
1:33 pm

FTPB,

Section 303,

I think Marvin is a better player than Diaw. But I would trade for Diaw because Diaw’s contract is expiring, whereas Marvin would still have 2 more years left. Trading Marvin for an expiring contract would give us an additional $7.5 mil in cap space next year.

With Horford injured, I would trade Marvin for any expiring contract.

Tom

January 18th, 2012
1:38 pm

Nice article for Jamal. He deserves it. Wish him the best and thanks for the highlights!

Smith.Leuer.Bogut

January 18th, 2012
1:39 pm

Vlad is a lower maintenance player. At 6′10 he can see and shoot over defense with ease and has the added effect of being able to rebound at a higher rate. Even though he;s not the best

low maintenance high efficacy is what Hawks need. We need to stop trying to hide players. Hide Marvin on offense. Hide Horford on defense. Hide Jamal on defense. Dribble dribble dribble.

If Jamal Crawford were 6′10+ he would have been a perfect fit.

Resigning smalls for offense dilutes the backcourt and would have been wrong. We need a spread shooter but we need size and defense in that player.

That is Sund’s job. Find a 6′10+ Jamal. And a center.

Teague
Joe
Smith
7′0 Jamal Crawford (excessive dribbling not needed, stand in corner like Marvin and shoot)
True Center (Can any1 say Horford would have dominated Joel Anthony, Spencer hawes? perfect chance to trade)

and we win the championship.

ILL-Logical

January 18th, 2012
1:42 pm

MC,very good journalism here ;would have liked a quote from the subject but the description of Jamal’s tenure is a really good read.

Dana Blankenhorn

January 18th, 2012
1:43 pm

I’m one of those readers who was sorry to see Crawford go, but Drew seems to have gotten himself an entire second unit with the money. Portland, meanwhile, is now predicted to be one of the beasts of the West, and I hope they are, for Jamal’s sake. As others have said, he deserves it. He’s a class act.

Smith.Leuer.Bogut

January 18th, 2012
1:48 pm

“Management told him he was part of team’s “core” ”

What the hell is going on in Atlanta? Being a better shooter than Marvin does not make you part of the core.

You have to be low maintenance on defense and offense. Effective when plays aren’t run for you. Erase mistakes.

Remarkable

January 18th, 2012
1:56 pm

We agree MC. Jamal was a great fit, but I think it was clear that his numbers were declining and it will be proved that it was a good time to part with him. Sure, we will miss him and his clutch shooting, but would he have been clutch much longer? I’m not sure. I think the Hawks did a great job of filling his position. The Hawks are fun to watch when the bench plays so well.
I agree that if we can trade Marvin for a Center whose contract is expiring that it will be a win-win for us. What do you think MC?

lea

January 18th, 2012
1:56 pm

this article is a complete joke. I for one do not miss jamal crawford jacking up bad shots with 20 seconds left on the clock. He’s gone , let it go. We now have more than one player coming off the bench who can score the ball, Jamal IS also a horrible defensive player, I don’t miss him. sorry.

Smith.Leuer.Bogut

January 18th, 2012
1:57 pm

edit: being a better player than Marvin does not make you a core player unless you help a need on defense.

Vlad at 6′10 and active hands helps a bit playing a disruptive defense.

But shame on ASKG or DumbAzzStupidGroup for telling people they’re needed when they’re not.

They are trying to build an All Star Group or a Team?
This is what you do.

To Smith(SF/PF) and Joe(SG/PG) and Teague (PG/SG). Add pure Shooter (PF/SF) and Add pure Center(C).

That is how you build a team around tweeners. Marvin and Horford are nice guys but they are not pure shooters or a pure center. And they are too nice on the court. Sorry.

The Truth

January 18th, 2012
1:58 pm

Great write-up, MC. I sense a lot of emotion and passion in the content.

Bigman needed

January 18th, 2012
1:59 pm

Barkley was picking portland to go to the finals. But We can beat them tonight. I dont think camby will play

Astro Joe

January 18th, 2012
2:00 pm

TMac, Vlad-Rad and Willie Green collectively cost about half of what Jamal makes and none may have come here if they thought Jamal were going to get all of the shots from the second unit. Spending more than the MLE on a one-dimensional player is not a good idea. He had his moments, those are gone. He is currently averaging less than 13 points on less than 40% shooting. He’ll score at least 20 tonight and then likely will score 7 in his next game. Whatever.

Go Hawks!

vava74

January 18th, 2012
2:01 pm

MC,

Nice write up but a tad sentimental.

“when properly deployed” is the crucial particle in the whole text.

http://www.82games.com shows that Jamal was pretty bad last year to close games (clutch stats).

I assume that the fact that he played PG during many of those minutes caused poor results and that he should not be blamed to some extent.

The PHO buzzer beater was an anomaly. Incredibly satisfactory, but an anomaly.

The ORL series was the best bball Jamal ever played in his life, but I would not tone down how poorly he played against CHI from game 1 onwards.

He was simply removed from the equation and hurt us badly every single second he was on the floor whilst JJ still steered us to that Game 4 win down the stretch after a monster game by Josh.

Jamal is an entertaining but highly fallible player. This is how I would describe Jamal in a nutshell.

I hope that bad Jamal shows us today and shoots his very frequent 2-12 and 0-6 with 5 TOs.

Trojan

January 18th, 2012
2:03 pm

Jamal was great but we are better off without him. If he would play for free, we would still need a center. I have been impressed with Green.

vava74

January 18th, 2012
2:04 pm

Our biggest problem at the C spot is the fact that Al and Zaza (the two C’s) do not have complementary characteristics.

Neither of the two is a shot-blocker/rim protector, neither is a forceful finisher.

Collins is a situational player and IMO a very good 3rd string C on a contender: you need a quality man to man post defender and most shot blockers / rim protectors nowadays are not good man to man.

Our ideal upgrade should be, obviously, replacing Al for a full fledged powerhouse all star C like Howard or Bynum, but that is not going to happen.

So…

The logical move would be to either replace Zaza with a shot blocking C or adding such shot-blocking C to the roster with Zaza logging more minutes at the PF slot.

Zaza is 6′11” but due to his absolute lack of lift and relatively small wingspan, he plays like he is 6′8”: he only looks and acts big but plays small.

(note: I like him)

The 2007/08 Kaman would be a perfect fit:

2007-08 LAC mpg37:12 fg%48.3 FTA3.6 FTM4.7 FT%76.2 oReb3.1 dReb9.6 RPG 12.7 ApG1.9 TO2.9 STL0.6 BLK2.8 PF3.2 PPG 15.7

But injuries have derailed him and his athleticism and conversely his blocks have gone down dramatically.

vava74

January 18th, 2012
2:07 pm

“consequently” not “conversely”

damn iPhone spell check

mike

January 18th, 2012
2:11 pm

Enjoyed Jamal’s time here.. a true pro. I attended that Phoenix game.. what an experience. Go Hawks.

JSS

January 18th, 2012
2:16 pm

Man, Michael Cunningham, you might have to have to read a 2 page exegesis from the Iberian Peninsula telling you that you’re crazy now!!!

prison nike

January 18th, 2012
2:16 pm

Crawful doesn’t worry me at all to be honest. It’s LA that is a bad matchup for the entire roster.

Slimjr

January 18th, 2012
2:17 pm

C’mon Gearon you’re gonna find out tonight you have to get this team some help!! YESTERDAY!!!!!!!

All NBA IS GONE FOR THE SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s not your savior Gearon!

Help! Help! Help!

Think of tonight’s game as a simulated playoff game against one the more talented teams in the NBA and see how you stack up..Lets hope it does not turn out sorta like that Falcons MELTDOWN a couple of weeks ago against the Giants? Hmmmmmm……

Rufus1

January 18th, 2012
2:17 pm

Bogut SUCKS!

Slimjr

January 18th, 2012
2:18 pm

Hope Jamal goes 1-8!!

JSS

January 18th, 2012
2:19 pm

Dang, he fooled me!

MattP

January 18th, 2012
2:19 pm

I can’t wait to see Johnson on Crawford tonight.

The Truth

January 18th, 2012
2:20 pm

Crawford has a player’s option in his contract next year. He will likely audition tonight as an extra incentive.

Rufus1

January 18th, 2012
2:22 pm

I would rather add Benson, Rolle or some D-league shot blocker/ Rebounder, instead of deleting some rotation player from our bench.

Rev in Tampa

January 18th, 2012
2:25 pm

@Smith.Leuer.Bogut – “If Jamal Crawford were 6′10+ he would have been a perfect fit.”

If Jamal Crawford were 6′10+ he would have been Al Horford.

MattP

January 18th, 2012
2:28 pm

Rufus1,

I agree but my concern there is LD playing that rookie. We all know LD hates to play rookies, look what he did to Teague and what he is doing to Ivan now. Ivan should be getting more minutes then he is getting because of his energy and defense but if it wasn’t for Horford getting injured he would not even be getting the kind of minutes he is getting now.

Rod from College Park

January 18th, 2012
2:46 pm

If we don’t get out of the first round of the playoffs this year, we will not be a better team without Jamal. Jamal was the reason we got out of the first round last year. His productivity will be missed come playoff time unless TMac can find a way to stay healthy enough to play major minutes in the playoffs. No other player on this team has the ability to get their own shot like Jamal did. TMac being healthy is our only hope to make any noise in the playoffs. The NBA playoffs are about big time players steppin up, and taking over games, and Jamal was a big time player. You all will understand his real value when we get to the playoffs, and can’t score. As constrcted, TMac being healthy is or only hope. As much as I like Josh, I have no confidence in him being a go to guy in the playoffs. He is much too emotional.

Vava74,

Maybe you did not read MC’s article. As I have told you before, Jamal won the Orlando series for us, and Chicago made him Public Enemy #1 in that series, and forced Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith to beat them in that series, and we see the result.

“Crawford did it again during Atlanta’s memorable Game 1 victory at Chicago. Alas, he couldn’t keep it up once the Bulls started sending multiple defenders to crowd him. He did pretty much all he could do, which was to make quick decisions and keep the ball moving and hope others would to the same until Atlanta could get good shots. Joe Johnson didn’t do the same, and Atlanta’s offense bogged down in the face of Chicago’s withering waves of defenders.”

O'Brien

January 18th, 2012
2:51 pm

The No. 1 story, as it should have been, was Larry Drew’s successful Twin Defense against Dwight Howard..

Really? Dwight’s regular season average was 23, 14 and 2. Against the Hawks in the playoffs last year, he averaged 27 pts, 16 rebs, and 2 blocks, shooting 63% from the field.
So how was the defense against him successful?

I think what made us successful was Twin made Dwight work, so we didn’t double, and as a result, we were able to shut down the 3-pt shooters.

Rufus1

January 18th, 2012
2:54 pm

MattP…More minutes for Ivan? Isn’t he getting like 20min a game?

I think we need as many players as we can to make-up for what AL brought. If we lose Zaza, we lose toughness and rebounding. If we lose Marvin, we lose a solid wing defender and a decent shooter…I want LD to have as many options as possible.

I think LD has matured as a coach and if the player fills a need and earns his minutes, I think he will play him…..I HOPE.

drmaryb.[*_*].

January 18th, 2012
2:57 pm

Too Small!

We probably have the smallest front court of any play off team the past five years. Losing Al Horford only highlights that fact.

Al and Josh both opined last season they needed some help with size in the paint. The ASKG answer was, TWIN! And, he lost 25 lbs! OK, was less weight supposed to make him bigger? Or, was losing 25 lbs supposed to make him quicker on his feet? LOL! If Al and Josh said they needed help, does that translate to: resign what you already had?

Fellas, our most glaring hole is management, as always.
Aye Sund! Give us a going away gift before you leave: REPLACE Al now! IDK what you need to do? But, DO your job and figure it out before you leave! Your time here is up, (see contract expiration date). As far as coach Drew, he hasn’t been given the length on his own contract to be developing any players. That’s why Kito, Magnum ‘nem had to go.

The ball is in ASKG’s court now. We will go as far as they pay.

Rufus1

January 18th, 2012
2:59 pm

Maybe we can trade Kirk and Zaza for Ray Allen, once the Celtics are out of the hunt.

Astro Joe

January 18th, 2012
3:04 pm

OB, I said the same during the series. D12 was having Wilt-like performances against Twin and all I read about was Collins’ defense. Seems like the real story was forcing the other guys around Howard to beat us by playing D12 with a single defender.

Michael Cunningham

January 18th, 2012
3:06 pm

@O’Brien: “MC, I’m disappointed in you”

disappointment implies there is some expectation of competence, so i guess that’s good. my mom said the same thing when she didn’t hear from me for a few days during the break-neck start to the schedule. i gently let her know that i had indeed tried to call her but couldn’t reach her and, you know, i’m pretty busy and tired and i’m really a good son and just because i don’t answer every single question that every single reader has in a blog it doesn’t mean i’m . . .

wait, what was your question? oh yeah, Josh’s free throws. the last time i asked him about it he said he’s putting up extra shots, but i think that goes for all of the Hawks. he didn’t mention anything about video or assistants working with him. i’m fairly sure i did an item on it but it may have been the little box that goes along with the print game story instead of a blog item. so please accept my apology mom . . . er, i mean blog people.

Michael Cunningham

January 18th, 2012
3:07 pm

@Ill-Logical: “MC,very good journalism here ;would have liked a quote from the subject but the description of Jamal’s tenure is a really good read.”

thanks . . . Blazers had a messed up shootaround schedule today. you will hear from Jamal pregame.

MattP

January 18th, 2012
3:08 pm

Rufus1,

With what we had out the past few games I do believe he should have had more minutes. Zaza does help in the middle at times but other times he is too clumsy. Wolves and Raptors game were good examples of him being clumsy and not helping.

Michael Cunningham

January 18th, 2012
3:09 pm

@Remarkable: “I agree that if we can trade Marvin for a Center whose contract is expiring that it will be a win-win for us. What do you think MC?”

i file this under: “fans want to trade a player they don’t like with an onerous contract for an asset.” in this case, the asset big man with an expiring contract. i’m thinking a team with such an asset may be able to get better than Marvin in return?

Michael Cunningham

January 18th, 2012
3:12 pm

@vava74: “MC, Nice write up but a tad sentimental.”

when have you ever known me to be sentimental? shoot, some around here hate that i’m not more emotional so i can hate the players they hate.

Michael Cunningham

January 18th, 2012
3:14 pm

@O’Brien: “I think what made us successful was Twin made Dwight work, so we didn’t double, and as a result, we were able to shut down the 3-pt shooters.”

well, yeah. isn’t the “make Dwight work” part of the success? if Dwight puts up big numbers and they lose, then isn’t a success? would it read better to say “Larry Drew’s successeful Twin Defense against the Magic”?

why am i never good enough for you mom??!!

Rufus1

January 18th, 2012
3:18 pm

MattP

I agree about Zaza and his clumsiness…I just want more bodies for match-ups.

drmaryb.[*_*].

January 18th, 2012
3:29 pm

That Ship has Sailed!

Sund should have got in on the Kendrick Perkins trade when the opportunity was there. But, as usual he sat in the bench and watched OKC send Jeff Green (a small) for the BIG – Kendrick.

Kendrick Perkins was the type of help Al and Josh was looking for. Not all these other scrub names that the Trader Joe’s on this blog keep pulling out their azzes.

Like Doug and Ryan just surmised in the interview a few minutes ago with Jason Cole from Yahoo Sports, the Hawks are to small to when a title when you got the Lakers rolling out Bynum and Gasol in a 7 game series. Pipe dreams always go up is smoke. Just understand that this is Hawks team is NOT a contender and you will all be satisfied with the entertainment.

John

January 18th, 2012
3:32 pm

I liked Jamal but people seem to forget that before Jamal, Flip Murray was pretty effective in the same role.

Slimjr

January 18th, 2012
3:35 pm

Reality Check Tonight on ESPN?

Yep!

Rod from College Park

January 18th, 2012
3:39 pm

MC,

Since you are in the responding spirit, how about the question I asked on the last blog.

“•Drew said the starting lineup could be fluid depending on opponent: “That could happen. We are looking at matchups.”

MC, can you please ask Drew why come hell, sleet, rain or snow, Marvin Williams is always in the starting lineup. Also ask him if he thinks Marvin derserves to be a starter. Thanks.

Lea

January 18th, 2012
3:39 pm

The 2 stews are idiots.

Michael Cunningham

January 18th, 2012
3:40 pm

@ dr. mary: “Like Doug and Ryan just surmised in the interview a few minutes ago with Jason Cole from Yahoo Sports . . .”

Jason Cole did an interview about the NBA? hmmmm, he covered the NFL when i was in south florida.

STRETCH

January 18th, 2012
3:42 pm

Tonights game should be a good match up since the Blazers dont have Camby.