NBA Mailbag

NBA Mailbag: Best playoff performer? What are rest days like in the postseason?

20-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford answers 20+ questions on the conference semifinals, playoff mindsets and the Draft lottery.

Look back at the start of the East semifinals with the latest episode of Chasing History.

The NBA Mailbag is here to answer your questions throughout the 2024 NBA playoffs! Have a question for Jamal? Submit it at the bottom of this edition of the NBA Mailbag. 

Who has been the best playoff performer so far?

– from Logan in Long Island, NY

Jalen Brunson. The way he’s led his team to where they’re at right now, especially with all the injuries, is really impressive. And he’s been consistent. He’s reaching a new level and making New York exciting again. So I’ll go with Brunson.

Has watching Wolves-Nuggets courtside as an announcer changed your view of either team?

– from Marcus in San Francisco, CA

I feel like I knew who the Nuggets were before this series started. I’m learning more about Minnesota as the series goes on. They play so hard and that’s one of the most impressive things about them. They’re one of the hardest-playing teams I’ve ever seen in person.

Do you remember another end to the half like Denver’s 8 points in 20 seconds?

– from David in Boulder, CO 

I remember the person next to me on the call, Reggie Miller, had eight points in nine seconds, which won his team the game. But Denver’s stretch to close out the first half is a big part of why they won. Those closing minutes were a moment of truth for each team and it completely shifted the game, and maybe the series.

What do rest days look like during the playoffs? Do teams still practice/walkthroughs or do they try to rest as much as possible?

– from Ceasar in Chicago, IL

Both. Sometimes you’ll come in and just have film to watch. Then it’ll be a get-what-you-need type of day. Some guys need a massage, some need to get extra shots, some need to lift. You can set up whatever you need with a coach or manager or trainer. The film is usually the one mandatory thing. At this point, everybody’s in shape so it becomes about what each player individually needs to take care of themself.

Do you think the Knicks’ 7-man rotation can hold up for an entire postseason run?

– from Shannon in Phoenix, AZ

No, I don’t. Obviously, the bench shortens in the playoffs and the Knicks are dealing with some significant injuries to three rotation players in Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson. But some of this wear and tear is also a result of how it’s been for most of the season. It catches up to you as a player and you can’t burn the candle at both ends. At some point, players start to have more injuries and missteps as they wear down.

How much does series momentum affect a player during the playoffs? Or are most players focused on one game at a time?

– from Xavier in Tallahassee, FL

It’s a bit of both. Series momentum is a real thing. But a player’s emotions can change from game to game, and even from quarter to quarter. Everything is hyped up. The whole world is watching these games. So when you’re on center stage, everybody will have an opinion about your highs and lows. And it can get to you, especially as you get further into the postseason. For a player, the momentum is more nuanced than just who won or lost the game.

We hear a lot about playoff risers. What makes a player’s game conducive to rising in the playoffs?

– from Kenyon in Lewiston, ME

It depends. Sometimes the right matchup can spark it. If a coach is playing chess, he may be saying, “Hey, we’re going to let Player X go off, but we’ll take care of Players Y & Z.” So it looks like Player X has things more figured out, when it turns out that was the opponent’s plan to let him go off.

Also, a player’s ability to handle the physicality in the playoffs plays a big part in how they perform. And as always, luck can play a part as well. Sometimes you’re just finding your shot at the right time and now you’re in a groove. So all of these factors impact how we perceive a player’s ability to rise in the playoffs.

How important is the sixth man role for a team’s playoff success?

– from Bertha in San Antonio, TX

It’s very important. Not only can a sixth man bring scoring to the game, but he can also bring balance to the game. When a star comes out, their short rest could get extended if the sixth man is playing great. So when the star returns, they’re more rested and the game has a different energy because of the sixth man’s impact. That balance can help change a game.

How much do “scars” from prior playoffs really matter?

– from John in Brooklyn, NY

They can help. But they can also put an extra layer of pressure on you because that’s in the back of your mind. For example, D-Lo struggled against the Nuggets last playoffs. So I’m sure he had that in the back of his mind against them this year, and he did well. So you can use it as fuel, but it has to be balanced because you don’t want it to create extra pressure.

What player from the remaining playoff teams do you wish you could’ve played with?

– from Niko in New Jersey

It would be fun to play with Jokic. Very few players I’ve ever seen make the right play every time. And he makes the right play every time. That’s so rare and it’s a genius way to play basketball. I know I’d get a lot of open shots.

Who was your favorite playoff teammate?

– from Matthew in Ontario, Canada

Chris Paul. He was a warrior. You knew he was going to battle and always give you a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for in these situations.

Al Horford is a guy that everyone in the league seems to respect. A true professional, a good locker room guy, no noise, no-nonsense, and is ready to do whatever the coach asks of him.  Who was your Al Horford when you played?

– from Sean in Orlando, FL

Al Horford was my Al Horford! I played with him in Atlanta when he was a young man. Ultimate winner, ultimate teammate, ultimate professional. He was all-class all the time and it’s no wonder he’s still successful in these playoff situations.

What is the key stat line that tells you how good a team’s defense is?

– from William in Orlando, FL

I always look at the hustle stats. Rebounds, offensive rebounds, steals and blocks. That tells me how much energy a team is putting into the game on the defensive end.

In today’s NBA, what would you consider to be the most important skill set to develop?

– from Drake in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada

Competitiveness. I think that’s lacking and there’s room for it to grow. If everybody was just as competitive as Anthony Edwards, then imagine how much better the game would be. It helps fuel every other element of the game and a player’s development.

What’s your take on the Suns hiring coach Bud?

– from Anthony in Phoenix, AZ

I like coach Bud. He’s a champion and will do a good job. But I think some of their problems are about more than coaching. The players need to look themselves in the mirror and be clear about what they’re trying to accomplish.

Do you think the Hawks should trade the No. 1 pick?

– from Sam in Atlanta, GA

If I knew I could get another bonafide star to complement what I have, then yes, I would trade the pick.

What current lottery team do you think will win a championship the soonest?

– from Aaliyah in Toronto, Canada

The Spurs. I trust Wemby.

When you’re a top draft prospect, how does the Lottery being completed affect your thoughts about the NBA? Does knowing the order of teams help you think more clearly about the future?

– from Andrew in Cleveland, OH

It just makes it more realistic. When you’re a prospect, you just want to be in the NBA. Growing up, we weren’t like, “I want to be the 7th pick to Sacramento” or whatever. We just want to be in the NBA. So I think the lottery makes things more clear. And as the Draft gets closer, you get even more clarity as you go through workouts and interviews. It makes the dream more realistic.

If you could come back into the league right now during playoff time, how many points could you score?

– from Nolyn in Florida

If I was in NBA shape, I could still get double figures consistently off the bench.

How has your perspective changed (or not changed) on the playoffs from early career playing to late career playing to now as part of the media?

– from Jacob in Los Angeles, CA

My love for the game has never changed. I’ve just grown from being a player trying to establish himself to an established player to retiring and seeing the game in a different way, to now talking about the game. And when you talk about the game, you have a responsibility to teach the game and enlighten viewers with your perspective. So it’s been a complete evolution to reach this stage of my career.

If you had to choose a starting lineup based on isolation skills, who would your starting 5 be? Including yourself.

– from Xavier in Charlotte, NC

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Michael Jordan
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Shaquille O’Neal

With Iverson, T-Mac, ‘Melo and me off the bench.

Have A Question For Jamal? Submit It Below!

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