Javaris Crittenton can’t play in the NBA again this season, not that he’d been playing before commissioner David Stern suspended him Wednesday for the duration. Crittenton has had a bad foot and underwent surgery last month, not that anybody much missed him.
Because Crittenton, not three full years removed from his one season at Georgia Tech, is playing his way out of the league. He left school too soon and didn’t go in the lottery — he was taken 19th overall in 2007 by the Lakers — and has worked his way through three organizations (L.A., Memphis and now Washington) already. And it’s hard to imagine that being suspended for “possession of [a gun] in the NBA workplace,” to use Stern’s phrase, will endear him to any future employer.
He arrived at Tech heralded as the Institute’s next splendid point guard, the line stretching from Mark Price to Craig Neal to Kenny Anderson to Travis Best to Stephon Marbury to Tony Akins to Jarrett Jack. Crittenton had an OK freshman season — not great, not terrible — and led the Jackets to the NCAA tournament. Where, in Round 1 against UNLV, he was called for a five-second violation on the game’s key possession.
And that was that. Even on that losing March day in Chicago, it was widely believed that Crittenton was one-and-done. (At Southwest Atlanta Christian, he’d been a high school teammate of Dwight Howard, who was none-and-done.) Fellow freshman Jacket Thaddeus Young was always considered more apt to stay, even though he clearly had the greater NBA upside.
Sure enough, Young has become an NBA starter and a double-figure scorer for Philadelphia, which drafted him 12th overall in 2007. He has had one team, one home, one ascending career path. At age 22, Crittenton bears the stamp of a journeyman — he has started 10 pro games — and now he’ll forever be known as the other guy in the Gilbert Arenas contretemps.
Crittenton pleaded guilty this week to a misdemeanor charge of possession of an unregistered firearm. He was sentenced to probation and apologized for his actions, but an apology might not be enough. Arenas will surely have less trouble finding another NBA job than Crittenton for the simple reason that Arenas is a better player.
Crittenton, alas, turned pro with a pro body — he’s 6-foot-5, 200 pounds — but not yet a pro game. Another year at Tech and he’d have become more skilled and more seasoned and would surely have gone in the 2008 lottery, and teams treat lottery picks differently than later first-rounders. Crittenton has been traded twice already and will reach the end of the crucial third NBA season without actually playing a game.
Put simply, he’ll have a tough time finding work next fall. The hope is that he grabs hold of himself and his spiraling career and writes a redemption song worthy of Bob Marley. Crittenton isn’t a bad guy, and he has it within him to be a good player. But having gotten so much wrong these past three years, he needs to set things right posthaste.