Crawford makes the most of his opportunity in Atlanta


Dec 19

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By Adam Fluck

It has been nearly a decade since Jamal Crawford began his NBA career. It started in Chicago, where he wound up after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the eighth overall selection of the 2000 NBA Draft and was shortly thereafter dealt to the Bulls.

Crawford_091219 Prior to the Bulls and Hawks game on Saturday, the tenth-year guard said he’s always happy to be back at the United Center.

“I was able to grow up here,” Crawford said of Chicago. “Coming out of college and being here so young, when I look back I am very thankful of the time I spent here.”

Crawford’s four seasons with the Bulls, however, will not be remembered for much success. The Bulls compiled a record of 89-239 and that particular youth movement, which also involved Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, was eventually abandoned. Still, Crawford said, he appreciates the opportunity given to him by the Bulls and views it as a learning experience.

“You can never let your highs get too high and your lows too low,” he said. “You’ve just got to continue to push. The losing was tough when all of us—even the fans who were there every night and were great supporting us. You looked at a team like Portland coming into this season and they were viewed as a team of the future. It’s too bad we couldn’t have been more like that, but we were all so young. I wish it would have gone differently, but things happen.”

Now on his fourth team and still in search of some postseason experience, Crawford says it is by far the best situation of his pro career. It isn’t hard to understand why, as Atlanta has opened the 2009-10 campaign with a 19-6 record, second best in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s the right mix of veterans and young guys,” said Crawford. “We’re able to bring a young player like Jeff Teague along slowly and put him out there. It’s a very solid group of guys and we’re like a family. We’ve been together for awhile now and it’s great to have an opportunity to win every single night.”

Though Crawford has started nearly 400 times in his NBA career, he’s exclusively come off the bench for Atlanta. Thus, far he’s has no complaints about his role.

“It’s been really good,” he said. “Myself and guys like Mo Evans and Joe Smith come in as part of that second unit and we try to bring energy. We feel like we can either help increase a lead or keep it there. We feel that games are won with our depth and it’s our number one strength.”

Crawford’s success as a reserve—he’s averaged 16.2 points per game (second on the team) in 30.9 minutes per game—has sparked some early talk about his candidacy for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award.

“People are talking about it and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it,” Crawford said. “I just want to go out there and win as many games as possible and that will work itself out.”

As for the Bulls, Crawford said he still follows the team and shared his thoughts on Chicago’s recent struggles.

“They are going through a rough stretch obviously,” he said. “Coach Del Negro has done a great job, but he’s had some guys injured and playing without Ben Gordon hasn’t been an easy adjustment. They just need to keep putting their best foot forward and they will start to play better. Traditionally, it seems the Bulls start slow and pick it up the second half of the season, so I think they’ll be fine.”

Crawford also offered high praise for Bulls guard Derrick Rose. Both players left for the pro ranks after just one year of college and entered the league with high expectations.

“He’s a point guard who looks to pass first and get others involved,” said Crawford. “He’s the head of the snake in Chicago. He is as athletic as any guy at that position in the league and he’s a team first guy. I like watching him play. Sometimes he knows when to be vocal and other times he just leads by example. I don’t see many flaws. They’ve got a special one in him for sure.”

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on facing the Atlanta Hawks, Tyrus Thomas’ return to practice and when he might be back in the lineup (12.19.09):

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