He said quite bluntly in training camp that he wanted to be a leader. Of course, most people thought that was just the polite lip service of a player secretly looking for the green light to shoot on a suspect roster with a rookie coach.
But Crawford has been a model citizen of Celtics Nation and has been a stabilizing influence as point guard in the absence of Rajon Rondo. Things could have gone a different way, especially when coach Brad Stevens opted to start Avery Bradley at point guard to begin the season. Fortunately, Crawford didn't pout and waited patiently for Stevens to call his number after Boston's 0-4 start.
Since Crawford's insertion into the starting lineup, the Celtics are 10-8 and his play has been a pleasant surprise. Perhaps even one of the bigger surprises of the NBA season so far. As a starter, he has been averaging 14.8 points, 6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1 steal. According to Basketball-Reference, he is assisting on 31% of all Boston's field goals and has an offensive rating of 117. Those averages in efficiency are unprecedented for Crawford and are career highs.
In the three years leading up to this season, the former Xavier product was one of the NBA's "potential guys." A player whose name was often followed by the conjunctions "but" or "if." What "if" he ever figures it out? Crawford can score, "but" he takes too many bad shots.
The list of those types of players is greatly influenced by a player's mentality, team usage, off-the-court issues and a variety of other factors. Think about guys like Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee and to a lesser degree Anthony Randolph. All have talent but haven't been able to translate it on the court with any level of consistency.
One never knows when a player is going to tap into himself and reach his full potential. When does the flashes of brilliance that illuminate a box score sporadically turn into the expected outcome every game? Sometimes it's a matter of trust or opportunity for that player. Crawford has never lacked confidence, but his coaches in the NBA have never had the confidence in him that he has in himself.
If it wasn't for Rondo's injury, we may never have seen this maturation for Crawford come to pass. Stevens praised Crawford for being a good teammate in the beginning of training camp but still opted to go with Bradley as the opening-night starter. Boston's dismal start forced his hand a bit to make a change and now Crawford is blossoming. An odd series of events indeed, but one that has gotten a solid player with potential on the right track.
Warren Shaw is a NBA contributor to Dime Magazine and co-host of the weekly basketball podcast "The Baseline". He has covered various NBA events live while also conducting one on one player interviews. His work can also be found at Celticslife.com and Prosportsblogging.com.
Follow him on Twitter @ShawSportsNBA.
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