Of the many questions that surrounded the Celtics and their five-game exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Miami Heat last week, perhaps the biggest one was about their depth at the guard positions.
There were "what if?" scenarios galore. What if Rajon Rondo had been 100 percent? What if Delonte West hadn't been playing hurt for basically the entire season? What if the C's had had just one more guard — a guy who could come off the bench, score, and infuse a little energy into an old, lifeless team?
It's a little late now, obviously, but some are saying the C's have found the answer to their guard problem. Allegedly, it's a well-traveled 31-year-old shooting guard by the name of Jamal Crawford.
Crawford's not a household name, but if you know hoops, you know him well. He was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2010, a reliable bench scorer in Atlanta for the last two seasons and an important piece of a Hawks team that's been a mainstay in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Now that things may be going south between Crawford and the Hawks, the idea's been thrown out there that Boston is a logical fit for the next stage of his career. Assuming the same salary cap rules are still in effect post-lockout, the Celtics can use the mid-level exception to make a run at the Hawks' bench-scoring stud. A reliable 15-point scorer hitting two 3-pointers a game would look mighty good in Boston, coming off the bench behind Rondo and Ray Allen.
Then again, maybe not.
To understand why Crawford in Boston might be a bad idea, you've got to look at why Crawford is likely to leave Atlanta in the first place. Crawford was clamoring all year long for an extension from the Hawks — the team threw $100 million at Joe Johnson last summer, and not a dime at Crawford. He felt disrespected. He wanted to be shown some love — serious years, serious money, a real commitment to his future. He didn't get it.
Guess what? The Celtics aren't about to give him that, either.
Crawford turned 31 toward the end of this season. At this point in his career, he is what he is — he's flashy and can occasionally score in bunches, but that's about it. He might be the kind of player the Celtics take a flyer on, picking him up for a year and trying him out, but he's not a potential franchise cornerstone in Boston.
The Celtics are going through a transition period right now. The summer on Danny Ainge's mind is 2012 — that's when the contracts of Allen, Kevin Garnett and both Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal expire, meaning a big realignment is on the way next year. Ainge doesn't want to make a serious commitment to anyone beyond next July unless it's someone really, truly special.
Crawford isn't that guy. He comes from a system in Atlanta where he gladly jacked up his 12 shots a night with no repercussions. The Hawks' offense has been guided by two offensively inept coaches in a row — first Mike Woodson, now Larry Drew — and it's been years since Crawford has been coached with any discipline. The Johnson-centric offense in Atlanta, nicknamed "Iso-Joe," has been adapted into "Iso-Jamal." That won't fly in Boston.
There's also the question of defense which, rumor has it, wins championships.
Crawford is an interesting name and the Boston possibility is intriguing, no doubt. But if you're the Celtics, here's a better idea. Take your chances without a big-name pickup. Groom the young Avery Bradley, find another one-year diamond in the rough like Delonte West, and roll the dice. Then in 2012, it's a whole new ballgame.
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