If the Wizards are going to keep their heads above water in the Eastern Conference standings without John Wall for the first month of the season, theyre going to need a strong start from third-year guard Jordan Crawford.
Three weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Crawford finished third on the Wizards in scoring last season with a career-high 14.7 points per game. He also posted career highs in assists 3.0 and rebounds 2.6.
Most of that production came with Crawford riding shotgun to Wall, but Wizards coach Randy Wittman believes the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder from Detroit is capable of making a major contribution while Wall recovers from a stress injury to his left knee.
Ill tell you about Jordan, Wittman said Wednesday on the second day of training camp.
Its his three best practices Ive ever seen him have.
Is it maturity? Is it growing up a little bit? Thats a testament to him. I think he probably had one of the better summers than anybody on the team in terms of his growth and understanding of me and things hes going to have to do to take that next step.
Crawford has never had trouble finding the basket.
He finished 21st in the nation in scoring in his final year at Xavier in 2009-10, averaging 20.5 points per game, and he averaged 16.3 points for the Wizards in 2010-11 after arriving in a trade from Atlanta.
When its time to score, I score, Crawford said. Thats how it should be. Weve had about 18 players hurt since the time Ive been here. If you go into an arena with eight players, whos gonna shoot?
It is the other aspects of the game that Crawford says hes hoping to improve, like distributing the ball, playing better defense and having a stronger voice on the court and in the locker room.
I can easily move into that role of point guard, he said. Its a natural position for me. Ive got the natural ability to lead in the locker room. People look up to me and gravitate to me. Im excited to be like a veteran to the team.
Wittman said he saw Wall becoming more of a leader on the court in the final weeks of last season and he wants all of his guards, including Crawford, to be the same coach on the floor.
Wall has an ability to control the flow of a game without me having to stand up on the sideline and dictate everything that were doing, Wittman said. I dont want to coach like that.
This is a game that will always be a game for the players. The players win the game. Its my job to prepare them to go out and do that so I want them to be able to have that understanding that this is the way we need to attack and not so much always looking over to me to get them the direction that they need to take the team. Its a process, and not everybody can do it, so well see.
Wittman said hes pleased with the approach Crawford has taken with his third NBA training camp and he believes the Wizards will reap the benefits
Its a very important step, Wittman said. Hes in his third year as well, and its important for all our young guys to have growth, maturity, and understanding the work that its going to take to become a good player in this league. You go through that sometimes the first couple of years and you think its just going to happen. Its good to see the response that Ive seen from him.