Even last summer, it felt like a possibility that Jamal Crawford would be done in the NBA before he wanted to be. He’s still out there now, and the market appears to be even slimmer for the 20-year NBA veteran. What’s left for Crawford?
Let’s start with the Suns. Not only is their roster full, but new point guard Ricky Rubio is going to be wearing Crawford’s No. 11 this season in Phoenix.
All the young players seemed to love having Crawford in the locker room last year, and it’s easy to see how he was an extension of general manager James Jones amongst the players, but they want to turn a page. Much like having Tyson Chandler in tow no longer made sense last season, keeping Crawford and forcing him to go through another losing season is unnecessary.
More likely is that Crawford joins a young, competitive team on the cusp of breaking through on a veteran minimum contract. Think of the Nuggets, Jazz, Mavericks or Pacers. Crawford showed even when he got playing time last season that he was close to cooked on the court. He probably shouldn’t be playing unless injuries or a blowout require it.
But as we’ve seen with guys like Udonis Haslem, Nick Collison and Vince Carter, even being around in a mentor capacity is valuable and worth a roster spot.
When asked after the season if he knew what his professional future held, Crawford said, “I have an idea somewhat, but I won’t reveal that yet.”
That was after a monster 51-point performance in the final game of the season, when he had to be feeling good. Always a measured guy, Crawford won’t push himself if he knows he’s done.
Signing late in the offseason wouldn’t be anything new for Crawford, who didn’t sign with the Suns until October last year. There were probably questions of if he was done last fall. But now, after a season in Phoenix where Crawford was one of the worst players statistically in all of basketball, perhaps teams do just see him as a veteran presence.
With the depth of the league greater now and teams investing in the G League, even great teams tend to fill the end of their roster with youngsters rather than sage veterans. Crawford can probably find a home during training camp if he really wants one, but it’s a matter of his goals.
The 39-year-old is active in the Seattle community and has long mentored young players in the area. Should he leave the NBA, he’s not saying goodbye to basketball. For a couple years now, Crawford has also stated his interest in joining a front office, so that could be in the works as soon as this season with no playing opportunities materializing.
The NBA won’t turn its back on Crawford, but that 51-point night may be his final flash as a pro player. His legacy is long and impressive, and he will be important in whatever capacity he stays around the game. The choice is his.