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Crawford, Williams and a twist of fate

It's a fascinating thing to see one man's life through another man's
eyes. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams once was the other half, with Jamal Crawford, of what should have/could have/would have been the
sickest (best) backcourt the NBA had seen since Chauncey and Rip. But
the basketball gods had other plans. Crawford's teammate with the
Chicago Bulls in 2002-03, Williams reflects here on what the world missed when a motorcycle accident ended Williams' career after one season, as well as
what he sees now in Crawford, who I said at the time
might be "the next Iceman."

Scoop Jackson: With your background and history with Jamal, how do you feel about where he is in his career right now?

Jay Williams: He's in such a good situation. Being able to come off
the bench and do your thing? Man. I've always been a fan because Jamal has a"swaggerness" to him. He has that style, you know, and he
has the ability to embarrass you. He can get you alone; and with his
handles, if he gets you leaning a certain way, he'll just go by you
and you'll feel like, "Damn, did that really just happen?"

With Atlanta, it's good to see him in a situation where he can just come
off the bench and get a heat check every single night
[laughs]. And that's his game! I mean, he has that [kind of] game
where he can explode for 40-plus. It was always just a
matter of him being in the right system to do it.

Jackson: When you reflect back on your career, do you kind of -- for lack of a better word -- regret the fact that you and Jamal never got a
chance to really ball together?

Williams: You know what? It's funny. I used to see Jamal when he was in New York [playing for the Knicks]; and every time we see each other,
we'd talk about that. I was still
trying to figure out who I was as an NBA player, and he was still
trying to figure out who he was and his role as a player, also.
So we never really had that chance.

The one thing about
Jamal that I've always loved is that he's extremely competitive.
From the first time I stepped on the practice court in Chicago, he
came right at me -- which was deservedly so. I mean, we were both
playing for the same position at the time. We both spent the entire
season trying to battle each other every day in practice and in
games. But when we finally started playing together, like the last
15 to 20 games of the season, it was like, "Wow. This is what this could
really be like." And now we always talk about that. Man, we would
have been there. I have no doubt in my mind, with me being 28 and Jamal's being – what, 29 or 30? -- we'd be in the primes of our
careers right now and hopefully still be in Chicago, still doing
it.

Jackson: Do you think him being on the Hawks gets them to that
promised land? Is he the difference-maker for the Hawks?

Williams: Here's the thing. [The Hawks] have a squad over there.
Josh [Smith] and Joe [Johnson], I mean, they definitely have a
squad. But [Crawford] has been able to save them in so many games
this year. I mean, Jason Terry is still doing it, but [Crawford] is like the
new Jason Terry -- the new sixth man coming off the bench, dropping
35 or 40 [points]. He's averaging 19 points per game, the second-leading scorer on that team next to Joe Johnson. If anything, Jamal is the glue,
scoring-wise, on that team that keeps that team together.

Jackson: If you are, say, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston or any other team that might have to face the Hawks in the playoffs, I know you have to
concentrate on Joe Johnson. But are you more scared of what Jamal
Crawford can do to you?

Williams: Yes, 100 percent. Joe [Johnson] has proven himself to be an All-Star and the leader of their team; but the one thing about the League
-- and I haven't played in playoff games, but I've watched and been
around a lot of playoff teams -- that I've learned is that you've got
to be able to control point production off of the bench.

Everyone knows the main guys, the starting five, are not
going to do it for you every single game. So if you can limit bench
points, that's what's going to allow a team to go a long way. So for,
say, Orlando or, say, Cleveland, stopping Jamal Crawford is key.
Because if they can stop him from averaging or getting 25 or 30 off
the bench, they are making Atlanta beat you with just their starting
five. So [Crawford] definitely has an S on his chest as far as other
teams' scouting reports go. If [other teams] want to win, they are
most definitely going to have to lock into him.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.

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