Crawford Leading Young Suns in Locker Room and on the Court
It came as a surprise when the Suns signed Jamal Crawford on the morning of their season opener and it was up in the air in what to expect out of the 38-year-old. What they received was not just a veteran voice in the locker room, but also a leader on the court as well.
Fast forward just one month into the season and Crawford’s impact has been on major display, especially the more he’s gotten implemented into Head Coach Igor Kokoškov’s system.
“From when he first got here, he wasn’t playing that much to now fully in rotation and performing,” Devin Booker said. “If you can play the game, it’s always going to show. There’s a reason he’s been in this long. So every time he’s out here, he just embraces his role in helping all of us out.”
Crawford knows that winning isn’t something that is going to come quick with a young roster, but he is up for the challenge and process of helping this team get to where they want to be.
“Sometimes going from point A to point C is more gratifying than W to Z,” Crawford said. “Seeing the young guys take steps in the right direction. Stuff that can stick with them their whole career, it can be some of the foundation pieces and that’s gratifying as well.”
It’s one thing to preach how to win, but it’s another to show it and Crawford did just that against the Bucks last week. With Booker heavily defended, the ball was placed in Crawford’s hands for the final shot.
“Crawford did what he’s been doing the last 18 years,” Kokoškov said. “He’s also a crunch time guy. A guy that can make a big shot. When you have two [clutch] guys on the court at the same time, it just gives you a better chance to win the game.”
Crawford drove to the free throw line, stepped back and drained his tenth game-winner of his career as the Suns defeated the Bucks.
“He’s been doing this for a very long time,” Booker said. “I had the utmost confidence in him. I knew it was going in right when he had the ball.”
Not only is he making the clutch plays, he’s making the right plays and knows when it’s his time to shine and when it’s time to take a step back. Earlier in the same game, Crawford sacrificed his own playing time as he asked Kokoškov to replace him with rookie Mikal Bridges for defensive purposes.
“He basically took himself out and put Mikal,” Kokoškov said. “I was about to do it, but he did it before I even told him... That just tells you an example of what he does for this team in the crunch time. He wasn’t selfish.”
With a young team like the Suns, it is sometimes a concern that veterans might take the playing time away from the young core, but with Crawford, he’s working with them to continuously help them improve.
“I always try to pick his brain and he always tries to tell me how I’m going to be in this league,” Deandre Ayton said. “Just keep working. He said I can see it. I’ve been around in this league for a very long time. He just uplifts your spirit.”
Crawford’s leadership is paying off for the Suns and the veteran sees the progress the team is making as they gain maturity and become more resilient on the court.
“It takes a certain level of maturity to get hit and get knocked down and get back up,” Crawford said. “Some people can lay there and say it’s over… We’re such a different team than we were even two weeks ago. We’re better. We may not see it in the results, but we’re better.”
Although the team’s record may not display all the progress made, the fight on the court as of late tells a different story and Crawford has been an important piece of that.
The 19-year-vet hit a major milestone in the Suns previous game against the Bulls as he hit a three during the second quarter for his 19,000th career point.
“It’s so unbelievable. He’s a basketball legend,” Booker said about Crawford. “He’s a Hall of Famer in my eyes. He has the resume to prove that.”
Crawford became just the 56th player in NBA history to ever reach the 19.000-point mark.
“That’s a lot of points,” Crawford said. “Obviously you have to play a long time to be able to sustain things like that, but it’s weird because I don’t really look back right now because I’m still in the moment. I’m very appreciative every time I hear a new name… It’s a humbling experience.”
Humble is exactly the word used by Ayton to describe his veteran.
“For a man who has accomplished so much in this league with so many great players, he’s the most humble man I’ve ever come across as a basketball player that’s up there,” Ayton said.
For Crawford, it’s not about him, his accolades or anything individual. It’s about working towards those wins and helping the young core continue to grow.
“It’s such a selfless thing,” Crawford said. “It’s not about any one person. It’s about us winning games and trying to go about it the right way. Every night’s not going to be your night, but as long as it’s the Suns night, then it’s a good night. We’re definitely trying to preach that and the veterans are trying to instill that and continue to move in the right direction.”
In just a short time with the Suns organization, Crawford has already made his impact on the team and the players have definitely bought in to what he has to say.
“Jamal is one of those guys that’s like a big brother you can go to for anything,” Booker said. “We’ve only been here for a few months together, but having that love for the game, our relationship just hit it off right away.”
With so many accolades already under his belt, Crawford’s focus turns to the development of this team and their young core. He will continue to help lead the Suns as they return home on Tuesday to tip-off against the Indiana Pacers. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.