Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 4/26/12
How Portland’s year led to Crawford’s infidelity

During last Fall’s frenzied NBA free agency period, former 6th man of the year, Jamal Crawford, was narrowing down a few teams he’d like to play for. The Portland TrailBlazers, one of Crawford’s top choices, had just come off yet another first round exit in the playoffs, this time at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, and had all of Rip City hyped for what could be an exciting year.

LaMarcus Aldridge was coming off the best statistical year of his career. Gerald Wallace, who Portland traded for the year prior, was primed for a solid full year as a Blazer, and Raymond Felton was brought in via a trade with Denver, to be the point guard of the future.

When Crawford did finally choose the Blazers, over the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, Portland looked like a lock for one of the 8 playoff seeds, with the tools necessary to compete against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers.

Jamal Crawford's signing in Portland had the fans ready for another playoff run

Portland’s Hot Start

Portland cruised to an early 3-0 record to start the year, dismantling the 76ers, Kings and Nuggets. For the time being, Portland looked like a legitimate contender, and had analysts and critics alike praising the job Nate McMillan, Paul Allen and Larry Miller had done in the shortened offseason.

After a loss to the new look, Chris Paul led Clippers, the Blazers beat Oklahoma City by 10, in Oklahoma, and rolled the Lakers at home behind a monster game from Gerald Wallace. He also did this.

At 5-1, the Blazers could do no wrong, and the high quality of basketball that Portland fans had so longed for, was back in the Rose City. But it wouldn’t last.

The next game for Portland came against the Phoenix Suns, and while Portland might have been favored to win, Phoenix exposed Portland’s weaknesses, dominating the Blazers 102-77. Portland’s downfall was beginning to take shape, no matter how unsuspecting it was.

Pieces Start Falling Apart

Portland would lose 21 of its next 36 games leading up to the trade deadline, capped off with an embarrasing 121-79 loss to the reeling New York Knicks, the day before the deadline.

Nate McMillan was canned, Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby were both shipped to new teams in an effort to stock up for the draft, effectively putting an end to Portland’s current season.

While Portland’s management would never admit to packing it in with a month and a half to play, Portland was in no shape to contend with the likes of Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn seeing relevant minutes.

Before Nate was fired, there were grumblings that he was losing control of the locker room, and one of the names associated with this rift was Jamal Crawford.

Crawford, who always seemed to be a very soft spoken, quiet individual, had now become one of the faces of a deteriorating locker room, for a team that was rapidly falling out of playoff contention. Jamal’s actions may have been due to the fact that there were rumors circulating he would be the one traded before the deadline.

Instead, Wallace and Camby were moved, but the damage had already been done to Crawford.

Crawford offers up his services

Fast forward to last Monday, April 16th, and Portland found themselves in Phoenix, trying to right the ship after two tough losses to Dallas and Sacramento.

Phoenix was all over Portland early, and often, winning by a margin of 125-107.

However, it wasn’t the play of the Blazers that caused all the commotion after the game, it was what was said by one of the Blazers to Suns coach Alvin Gentry.

According to Suns broadcaster, Jon Bloom, Jamal Crawford told Eddie Johnson, former Suns player and current analyst, and Suns coach Alvin Gentry that he “needs to be here in Phoenix.” According to Yahoo! Sports, Bloom posted this on his twitter account after he heard it, and also noted that it was within earshot of several Portland players.

But hey, the season’s practically over right? And even though Crawford has a $5 million player option for next year, he can still market himself to see if he gets a bigger offer in free agency. That’s how a non-Blazer fan can look at it, for everyone else in Portland, its a slap in the face.

Alvin Gentry's scouting job got easier when the Blazers came to Phoenix

Does he stay or does he go?

If Crawford wants to jump ship next year, so be it; however, he doesn’t need to create turmoil, and controversy, while he’s still a member of Portland’s roster. He was a welcome addition in December, but its obvious he’s lost the desire to be a part of Rip City’s rebuilding effort, so I think Portland should be fine with letting him walk.

Personally, I think he bolts, whether its for the Suns, or some other lucrative offer, because it’s become visibly obvious he was not happy with his role as a Blazer; a role that would look very similar if he were apart of next years squad.

You can’t really blame the guy for wanting to relocate to Phoenix, if that’s what he chooses. He’d leave behind Portland’s rainy days, for much sunnier pastures, and there is also something to be said about the Suns’ training staff.

I mean, Steve Nash and Grant Hill, two players over the hill in NBA years, have played like energetic 20-somethings, and even in the event of an injury, they haven’t missed significant time. With Crawford approaching the twilight of his career, this has to be a strong draw for him as a player.

The Suns have not backed down from rumors they would be pursuing Crawford in the offseason either, so maybe Crawford’s remarks were meant to make the decision easier on them by telling them he “needs” to be there.

Either way, this was handled quite poorly by Mr. Crawford, and there’s no doubt he’s lost a number of fans among the Blazer faithful.

Farewell J Crossover

This incident essentially puts to rest the Jamal Crawfordexperiment in Portland, a divorce that was likely predicted back in March with the trade rumors.

Crawford seems unhappy with his role yet again

However, Crawford’s time in Portland wasn’t all for naught as he provided solid minutes for Portland when he was called upon. It didn’t necessarily change the outcome of the season, and his actions behind closed doors may have led to McMillan losing control of the locker room, but he can’t be the sole player blamed for the disaster this season turned out to be.

While it was inevitable Crawford would take his talents elsewhere this summer, this whole incident could’ve been handled more professionally. The NBA is, without a doubt, a business, but Jamal owed it to his fans to not publicly humiliate the organization by openly offering his services to another NBA team, during a game.

As absurd as his actions may seem, it was just another typical episode in an otherwise forgettable season for the Portland Trail Blazers. As a fan, one can only hope the Portland management effectively rebuilds this summer through the NBA Draft, as well as free agency, so that at this time next year we can be talking about Portland’s chances in the playoffs (wishful thinking, I know).


© Rick Stella for North West Sports Beat, 2012. | Permalink | No comment |

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