NBA PM: Jamal Crawford Likely to Opt-Out
When Jamal Crawford signed with the Portland Trail Blazers last offseason, he was expecting to join one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Blazers were coming off of a 48-win season and Crawford turned down larger offers from other teams because he wanted to join a contender.
This season, things haven’t gone quite as planned in Portland. The Blazers hold the fifth-worst record in the conference and have started to rebuild. They fired head coach Nate McMillan and traded away veterans such as Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby. Portland currently sits at 27-31 with little hope of making the playoffs.
“It’s frustrating, especially after the way we started the season,” Crawford told HOOPSWORLD. “We started 7-2 and we were one of the top seeds in the West a few weeks into the season. When you have that kind of success early, every loss after that is pretty dramatic. If we came into the season playing.500 basketball, it wouldn’t have been talked about as much. People would have said, ‘Oh, they lost Brandon [Roy], Greg [Oden] is hurt and they have a lot of new guys.’ But, with the way we started out, expectations were high. Playing .500 since then has been frustrating and that’s why all of the changes happened. Whenever you lose and fail to live up to expectations, anything can happen. We saw that at the trade deadline with a lot of players being dealt and then with Coach McMillan getting fired.”
This isn’t what Crawford expected when he signed with the Blazers four months ago. This summer, he’s expected to opt-out and become an unrestricted free agent, according to sources close to the situation.
“If I opt-out, I think it’ll be really cool to have a traditional free agency,” Crawford said. “Last year, everything was so rushed. A lot of people didn’t even think we’d have a season and then, all of sudden, everything was thrown together. It happened so fast. If I choose to opt-out, this year will be much different and more traditional.”
At the trade deadline, Crawford thought he was going to be dealt. He was mentioned in many different trade rumors and was shocked when the Blazers didn’t move him.
“I was surprised,” Crawford said. “It was weird, seeing my name in so many trade rumors. I was thinking, ‘Okay, I’m sure I’ll be traded.’ My name was just out there too much. I was talking to my agent and there were so many rumors. Then, I talked to our general manager, Chad Buchanan, when the deadline approached. He said, ‘You’re not going anywhere. We really like you. It was never a personal thing.’ My name was out there in discussions, but a lot of it had to do with the opt-out. If I opt-out, I could walk away and they wouldn’t get anything in return. That had a lot to do with the rumors.”
One team that expressed interest in Crawford last offseason and at the trade deadline is the Minnesota Timberwolves. They would love to start Crawford at shooting guard and they believe he’d thrive in Rick Adelman’s system. If Crawford decides to opt-out, expect the Timberwolves to pursue him this summer.
“Anything is possible in the future,” Crawford said. “Minnesota was a team that I almost signed with before I decided to come to Portland. I’m sure the interest is still there. I’ve always been a fan of Coach Adelman and how he goes about things. That’s a little ways away though. We’ll see what happens this summer. Right now, I’m just focused on Portland and trying to get as many wins as possible before the season is over.”
This season, Crawford has experienced success despite playing fewer minutes than in recent years. He is averaging 13.3 points in 26.6 minutes. In six games as a starter, Crawford averaged 19.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He is also leading the NBA in free-throw percentage, making 92.8 percent of his attempts. While Crawford has proven that he can be an effective sixth man in the NBA, he’ll likely look for a starting job if he tests free agency this summer.
“One thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is that it’s a lot easier to start than it is to come off of the bench,” Crawford said. “When you start, you have a lot more control. I can settle down and play my game. Off the bench, I come in and feel like I have to make something happen. When you’re coming off the bench, you’re a hired gun who has to come in and score. When you start, you can pick and choose your spots and take your time. Going into the summer, that’s definitely something I’m going to consider. I’m not saying that I’m not willing to come off the bench, but my preference is to start.”
Despite the Blazers’ struggles this season, Crawford has shown his versatility by playing multiple positions and roles. This summer, he’ll likely test free agency and be one of the top scorers on the market.
Miller Emerges as Leader in Denver: The Denver Nuggets are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, with an average age of 25.9 years old. They rely heavily on young players such as Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried.
Andre Miller, at 36 years old, is the elder statesman in the Nuggets’ locker room.
After joining the Nuggets over the offseason, Miller has emerged as one of the team’s veteran leaders. He’s often seen barking at teammates, offering advice to players who are nearly half his age.
“That’s my job,” Miller told HOOPSWORLD. “Anytime I can say something that will help someone, get someone an easy basket or make someone’s job easier, I’m doing my job.”
Miller’s teammates grew up watching the veteran point guard and have a lot of respect for him. Jordan Hamilton was only 8 years old when Miller started his NBA career. Julyan Stone remembers watching Miller when he was in elementary school.
“It’s crazy, playing with someone who is 13 years older than you,” Stone said. “He has taught me a lot about playing situations and leadership. He knows how to keep his teammates involved and put them in positions to be successful.”
Miller enjoys his role in Denver, mentoring the team’s young talent and contributing off the bench.
“This is probably the youngest team that I’ve been on, but it’s also probably the deepest,” Miller said. “We have a lot of guys who can come into the game and bring something to the table. We’re fighting to get into the playoffs. That’s the main thing right now. Once we get to the playoffs, we’ll see how good this team can be.”
Despite his age, Miller doesn’t see himself retiring anytime soon. He’s still putting up solid numbers, averaging 10.1 points and 6.4 assists off the bench in Denver, and he wants to continue playing for as long as physically possible.
“I want to keep playing until my legs don’t work anymore,” Miller said with a laugh. “I’m not thinking about life after basketball. I haven’t given that any thought yet.”
This summer, Miller will be an unrestricted free agent. After Deron Williams and Steve Nash, he’ll be one of the best point guards available and he’ll likely attract interest from a number of teams that need a distributor. Miller doesn’t know what to expect from free agency, but he’ll weigh his options this offseason.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen right now,” Miller said. “I’m just going to play this season out and then see what happens this summer.”
For now, Miller is focused on getting the Nuggets into the playoffs and getting the most out of his young teammates.
News and Notes: Here are some news and notes from around the NBA:
• Vince Carter believes the Dallas Mavericks have what it takes to make a deep postseason run. “I think this is a very unique team,” Carter told HOOPSWORLD. “This team has more veterans than other team that I’ve played on and it’s a lot of fun. These guys just want to win and we’re a very unselfish team. We play through Dirk and Jet, but at the same time, they make plays for us and are willing to give the ball to the open guy. They trust that we’ll make plays and hit shots. We all help each other. We have so many guys that can play different positions and create problems.”
• Kevin Garnett has found the Fountain of Youth. Since the All-Star break, Garnett has been playing some of his best basketball in years. The 35-year-old is averaging 17.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, one block and one steal. Garnett has been playing center lately and making an impact on both ends of the court. The Boston Celtics have turned their season around and one of the main reasons is Garnett’s reemergence.
• Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Jared Sullinger, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Damian Lillard and Marquis Teague are the top ten picks in HOOPSWORLD’s latest mock draft. Check out the entire mock draft here and leave your thoughts in the comment section.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11 a.m EST. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston returns to hold down his weekly chat at 3 p.m. EST. HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8 p.m. EST.