Over the course of his long NBA career, journeyman combo guard Jamal Crawford has become known as a dependable veteran scorer. In truth, there's little else he does particularly well. And while Crawford's career shooting percentages — 40.8 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from beyond the arc — leave much to be desired, it's also clear that a team should only pick him up if it wants him to shoot. That's what Crawford does, and he's managed to make a pretty good living out of it.
It is easy to assume that, because of the progression of his career, Crawford would have identified that and done everything possible to make sure he improved and continued his skills as a shooter. However, that appears to have not been the case at all. In fact, Crawford says he never practiced his shooting before this year. From Helene Elliott for the Los Angeles Times (via TBJ and TrueHoop):
After 12 NBA seasons and with a firm reputation as a pure shooter, Clippers guard Jamal Crawford tried something during the off-season he had never done before. He practiced shooting.
It's astonishing to think that Crawford, who is the NBA's career leader with 34 four-point plays and ranks 21st all-time with 1,387 three-pointers, didn't routinely spend his summers in stuffy gyms trying to perfect his shot. [...]
"This summer was actually the first summer I worked on my game. I usually just play off of raw talent," he said Thursday after the Clippers' practice. "But I just wanted to work on something and be in great shape coming into camp. I came here right after Labor Day, which is the earliest I've ever gone to any team in the summer, and all the guys were here, committed to getting better.
"Now it's part of my lifestyle, working out and being here, shooting and getting shots up. It gives you more confidence that if you miss one or two, you know you've been working on it every single day and your teammates have confidence because they see it as well."
This news is mind-boggling for many reasons, but the first is pretty obvious: how can a player go through so many seasons of organized basketball without being drilled on shooting at all? That Crawford makes his living by putting the ball in the basket only raises the level of confusion. Frankly, it's a little difficult to believe him.
The other bit of intrigue — and the one that's much easier to analyze — is that Crawford, a veteran, has never taken part in the near-obsessive offseason workouts that we typically associate with sustained NBA success. If this is true, then he really did get by on little more than his talent. That's impressive, in its way — winning a Sixth Man of the Year trophy is difficult — but it also conjures questions of "what might have been?" if Crawford had put forth that extra effort.
For the record, Crawford has spent most of his career in a middle ground between looking like a star-quality scorer and being inefficient enough to submarine a team's hopes of greater relevance. With this news, that doesn't come as such a surprise.
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