On a team four games under .500 and missing its star — and really only — point guard, Jordan Crawford is changing the Celtics’ mindset, and turning heads in the process.
Crawford’s scouting report includes the nickname “Steeze,” an epithet generally ascribed to Crawford himself. The slang term is common among snowboarding circles, but seemingly fits well in NBA locker rooms as well. The word combines the words “style” and “ease” and almost perfectly describes what Crawford is trying to do.
Asked where it came from, Crawford let a smirk shine through after posting his third career triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the Celtics’ 103-86 win over Cleveland on Friday.
“I don’t call myself that, they started saying it in the media,” he said. When asked to elaborate on its meaning, his expressing grew into a sly grin too large to contain. “You know, it’s Steeze — instead of using ‘swag’ kind of lingo, it’s steeze.”
So, a less arrogant version of “swag” (short for swagger). That makes things easy. Yeah, that sounds like Crawford this season.
Think for a second about Crawford’s time in Boston last year, and a frantic player who takes too many shots — directed both toward the basket and the opposition — comes to mind.
Now, thrust into the full-time starter’s role for the first time in his career, Crawford is suddenly making things look easy. Friday, Crawford’s crossovers raised “oohs” and “ahs” like kids watching a pickup game in Rucker Park, but also led to a triple-double. Last season, it usually led to boos and the bench.
On the season, Crawford is averaging a career-best 5.2 assists per game. When asked what that type of performance does for his personal confidence level, Crawford answered in a fashion beyond his years.
“Makes me just continue to play team ball,” he said. “Get my teammates the ball. When they’re playing good it’s easier for all of us.”
Despite being a starter, Crawford isn’t playing many more minutes than in any previous season — he’s only averaging 28 minutes per game this fall, barely more than the 25.2 he’s averaged over his previous three seasons.
The difference is his commitment to Celtic basketball — as opposed to Jordan Crawford basketball — and his teammates have noticed the change.
“Man, he did beautiful things out there to put this team in position to score,” Jeff Green said. “When the paint wasn’t open he took what the defense would give him, just knocking down threes and getting in the game. That’s what he does best.”
Coach Brad Stevens, too, took note.
“He was shockingly effective,” Stevens said. “He was good, he was solid, and he didn’t shoot great, obviously, but everything else he did pretty well.”
In the final minute of the game, Crawford dished another assist that led to nice dunk by Kris Humphries. With the dime, Crawford sat just four points away from the triple-double. The crowd felt it.
The next possession Crawford teed up a three from straight away, nailing the bucket nothing-but-net. On the ensuing offensive possession, he passed the ball away before it found its way back to him with roughly 10 seconds on the shot clock. Crawford then started dribbling around like a Harlem Globetrotter, turned a corner and hit a Cavalier, falling like a brick but earning a foul. He hobbled to the line with a smile before hitting both free throws to give him double-digit points and seal the difficult achievement.
Stevens joked after the game about the crowd’s building anticipation and Crawford’s determination to get those last few points.
“He got a triple-double?” Stevens deadpanned. “Crawford did? Holy smokes. I had no idea.”
Crawford chuckled when told Stevens joked he was unaware of the impending triple-double, but laughed when asked why he passed the ball needing just one point to finish it.
“I didn’t want it to get out of hand. I had to disguise it a little bit,” he said. “I could hear the crowd chanting. I kind of asked [Stevens] a little bit [to stay in the game], might have whispered something in his ear.”
Then Crawford looked right at the camera, flashed his best TV smile and, like the cat who ate the canary, said, “Appreciate it, coach.”
Less arrogant, more efficient, and making it look easy. Sounds pretty steezy.