Jordan Crawford thriving in new Celtics role
Of course, Jordan Crawford wondered if he’d ever get the chance he’s receiving now.
When the shooting guard played for Washington last year at this time, in fact, that very thought crossed his mind more than once.
“I mean, there are times when you think certain things are going to happen that don’t go as planned, so you have doubt, a little bit, of how your career panned out, because that’s not what you dreamed of when you were little,” Crawford said Friday night.
With the Wizards, his career was certainly not going as planned, at least not the way he imagined when he was little.
He was a backup who felt he deserved a bigger role and realized that role wasn’t going to be available on a team with a backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Then Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld said, “Jordan did not fit into our current plans . . . or our future plans,” and dealt the former first-round draft pick to Boston last February on his rookie deal — for basically nothing in return.
But then the Celtics overhauled their roster and hired a new coach, and their point guard was injured, meaning they’d need a capable backup.
Enter Crawford, who has started to shine for the Celtics, now that he has the chance he’s always wanted.
Before a national television audience Friday, Crawford scored a game-high 22 points and added a game-high eight assists in Boston’s 106-98 victory over Denver at TD Garden.
His hot night continued a hot streak — in the last three games, he’s averaging 21.7 points.
Is it the best he’s ever played? “Not at all,” the 25-year-old said.
What about as a Celtic? “Yeah, best as a Celtic,” he added.
Crawford scored 8 points in the third quarter, when Denver was trying to come back from a 20-point deficit and had cut the Celtics’ lead to 74-71.
Crawford assisted on a key Avery Bradley 3-pointer that pushed the Celtics’ lead back to 10, later hit a running jumper, then added another assist on a hook shot by Kris Humphries.
Then in the fourth, the Nuggets cut the Celtics’ lead from 13 to 7 in the final five minutes, but Crawford hit a huge 3-pointer with 39.5 seconds left that iced the win.
Boston has won five of its last seven games and leads the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division by 1½ games with a 9-12 record.
And Crawford has played a huge part with All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo (knee) on the sideline.
But coming into the season, Crawford’s expectations were unclear.
“I mean, it’s the NBA,” he said. “You don’t know how things are going to shake out. You’ve just got to take it for what it is. Lucky I got an opportunity. Taking advantage of it.”
More than anything, he’s thankful, because, he said, “You don’t get these opportunities in the NBA.”
It could be said that having a change of scenery was what helped Crawford most. He didn’t deny that new surroundings do help.
“Well, I don’t have to look over my shoulder [anymore],” he said. “That’s one thing. I think they believe in me here. I don’t have to worry about anybody saying this or saying that. That’s a little more comfortable.”
The results seem to agree.
Kelly Olynyk close
Forward Kelly Olynyk (sprained right ankle) missed his seventh straight game, but Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the rookie is “close to being back.”
Stevens said it’s unlikely Olynyk would play Sunday when the Celtics face the Knicks in New York, but he didn’t rule out Tuesday against the Nets in Brooklyn.
However, when Olynyk does return, it presents a challenge for Stevens to work him back into the frontline rotation, especially with Humphries playing so well lately, scoring a season-high 18 points in 24 minutes off the bench against the Nuggets.
“I don’t know how that’s all going to work itself out, but I have a lot of faith in Kris, I have a lot of faith in Kelly, I’ve got a lot of faith in all five bigs,” Stevens said.
“We talked about that before, but the bottom line is, I guess when you look across the league, it seems like every team we play has one of their bigs out. So to have five of them that all really, really complement each other, that gives you the flexibility of four being available on a given night, that’s pretty good.
“But when we have all five available, I don’t know how that’s going to work itself out.”
Satch Sullinger, Jared Sullinger’s father, has been in Boston the past week and has been attending Celtics’ practices and games, including Friday.
“It’s all right,” the younger Sullinger joked at a recent practice with his father in attendance. “He doesn’t coach me anymore. He’s my father, finally. Thank the Lord. But, yeah, he’s my father finally.”
Satch coached Jared at Columbus (Ohio) Northland High School, but Satch stepped down from that post in 2011. He’s also just released a book, “Winning with Purpose” about his career as a coach.
“Was he tough as a coach?” Jared said. “Do you see his face? Hell, yeah, he was tough as a coach.
“At times my freshman and sophomore year, I had to understand that he was coaching through me to other people, so me and him used to bump heads all the time. But now we’re fine.
“It’s kind of cool. It’s always been my dream. To see him upstairs watching me practice at an NBA level is pretty cool.”