Jamal Crawford readies his jump from Portland (Getty Images)
When the Portland Trail Blazers signed Jamal Crawford in the offseason, it seemed like a sound (if temporary) alignment. The Blazers badly needed backcourt scoring help with former All-Star Brandon Roy retiring, Crawford didn't find many takers on the open market and Jamal's Pacific Northwest roots (he's from Seattle) would seem to aid in the arrangement.
Unfortunately, things haven't gone as smoothly in the months since. The Blazers blew things up in March, trading players and firing former Seattle SuperSonics player and coach Nate McMillan. Crawford's overall production is just about in line with his career numbers, but he's shooting just 38 percent from the floor, and as a 31-year-old journeyman, his talents aren't as needed on a rebuilding team as they were on last December's playoff hopeful. Also, not sure if you know this, but Portland ain't Seattle.
Phoenix might be an alternative, though. The Suns will have free-agent money to spend this summer, they've long employed a wide-open style of play, and they have a training staff that tends to turn mere mortals into the frickin' Highlander, maaan. And Crawford, even in front of his current Portland teammates, didn't mind letting his potential Phoenix coach and future Suns teammates know that he can be had once July hits. And he doesn't mind telling the Suns this in Phoenix, during an actual game. From the Twitter of Suns broadcaster Jon Bloom:
"EJ" is Suns analyst and former scorer Eddie Johnson. And, also, Jamal Crawford is under contract to play with the Portland Trail Blazers for the next nine days. Just a heads-up, Jamal.
Crawford has a player option with the Blazers next season at over $5.2 million, and though he can still help a team even in his early 30s, he'd probably be giving up quite a bit of money if he declines it. Teams are just about growing wise to his game (dribble, dribble, dribble, long jumper) and they probably think their resources are better served elsewhere. In this climate, it's hard to see an NBA team eclipsing $5.2 million with an opening offer to Jamal Crawford.
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The Suns have the cash to make such an offer, and don't think that the tuned-in Crawford doesn't know that. Before the team figures out what to do with free agent Steve Nash, it will have around $30 million in cap space to plow through, and by all indications it appears as if the group will attempt to move forward with one last playoff push around the two-time MVP. And though he's gone on record as hoping the Suns revamp the roster during the offseason (breaking news: All-Star would like to play with other All-Stars), Nash appears eager to stick it out in Phoenix. Again. CSSNW.com is reporting that the Suns have interest, and that Crawford "knows they want him."
With that training staff, we can't blame the guy for reaching out and Nash for sticking around. And just as free agents-to-be are acutely aware of just which teams have cap space heading into each summer, NBA vets are pretty tuned into that Suns staff, and the way it has extended the careers of Nash, Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal. Save for an ACL tear that wiped out most of his second season, Crawford has been pretty healthy throughout his 12-year career, but this doesn't preclude him from wanting to utilize the talents of the best training staff in the NBA.
And Crawford is a classy guy, has been throughout his career, through various stops. It's not like him to sort of sell out his Portland teammates midgame. Then again, midseason, Portland sold him out by giving up on the playoff hunt and turning into a rebuilding team. And teammate Raymond Felton sold out Crawford by committing to "sure, I'll see the dessert cart" a dozen or so times last fall.
It hasn't been a sturdy relationship, Crawford and Portland, and it's about to meet a fitting end.
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