Commentary

Crawford, Williams and a twist of fate

Jamal Crawford and Jay Williams would've been one 'sick' backcourt with the Bulls

Originally Published: April 30, 2010
By Scoop Jackson | ESPN.com

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.

[+] EnlargeJamal Crawford
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesFor a too-brief time in the 2002-03 season, Jay Williams, left, and Jamal Crawford, right, made some beautiful music together on the court for the Bulls.

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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