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NBA Player of the Week: Jamal Crawford

In the summer, the New York Knicks’ General Manager, Isiah Thomas, made no bones about wanting to pursue the Bull’s guard, Jamal Crawford.  Thomas actively pursued Crawford, and initiated a successful sign-and-trade with the Chicago Bulls. 

The Bulls had acquired Crawford with the 7th overall pick in the 2000 draft, after his freshman year with the University of Michigan.  Crawford enters this season having averaged 11.2 points in 244 games.  The Bulls signed Crawford to a 7-year $56-million contract, and then shipped him to the Knicks with forward, Jerome ’Junk Yard Dog’ Williams.  In exchange the Bulls received centers, Dikembe Mutombo and Cezary Trybanski, guards, Frank Williams, and forward, Othello Harrington.    

Crawford established himself as one of the NBA’s top young guards last season, leading the Bulls with 17.3 points a game, which was highlighted by a 50-point performance against the Toronto Raptors.  He was only one of four players to score at least 50 points in a game last season.  And at 24 years of age, the Knicks believe that he will be a cornerstone of the franchise.  The ceiling’s the limit for his talent, coach, Lenny Wilkens said.  

So far this preseason, Crawford has not disappointed.  In his Knicks debut, a 92-84 victory over the New Jersey Nets, Crawford scored 19 points with seven rebounds, six assists and four turnovers in his preseason debut last night.  The performance showcased Crawford’s all-round talents.  At 6-5 and 190 pounds, Crawford can play either guard position.  His former Bull’s coach, Bill Cartwright, is convinced that Crawford can eventually play small forward as well.

The Knicks second preseason game, a 98-84 win over the San Antonio Spurs, Crawford put on a shooting clinic.  Accentuating his athleticism, Crawford displayed flashy moves while shooting the lights out.  He made 10 of the 12 shots he took, scoring 25 point for the evening.   

So with that, New York fans are sensing that this young man will provide plenty of entertainment for this season.  With a backcourt boasting Stephon Marbury and Allan Houston, who is currently injured, the Knicks will have one of the deadliest backcourts in the league.   In fact, this may potentially serve as a problem, one that most teams would have.  

It still unknown whether Crawford or incumbent, Houston, will start.  Isiah Thomas wasn’t willing to make any guarantees about the situation, reiterating his stance that competition for playing time is good for the team, and the decision will be made by coach, Lenny Wilkens.

Even Allan Houston, sitting on the bench in a brown suit, admitted as much. Crawford started at shooting guard and it’s going to be difficult for Wilkens to remove Crawford once Houston gets healthy.  Just watching him in practice, he’s better than we all thought, Houston said.

The knock on Crawford is his low shooting percentage.  He is a career 40% shooter, and shot only 37% in his breakout year last season.  The Knicks believe that Crawford’s poor shot selection is responsible for his low percentage and that Stephon Marbury’s presence will give him more chances to take spot-up jumpers instead of always trying to score off the dribble.