» Blog Archive » Warriors trying to rebuild Jamal Crawford’s defense from ‘ground zero’
  • Jan

    By Geoff Lepper

    OAKLAND — In 568 career NBA games, Warriors guard Jamal Crawford has only gotten to five fouls on 16 occasions. He has not fouled out once.

    Keith Smart, Golden State’s defensive coordinator, doesn’t see those facts in a positive light.

    “If you don’t get in foul trouble, there’s a reason,” Smart said. “You’re probably not close enough to get a foul. So we’ve got to get him thinking about those things.”

    Crawford is thinking about it. He’s an avid film watcher, and Smart has used those sessions to point out Crawford’s flaws on D since his arrival in November.

    “I definitely could get better,” Crawford said when asked if he was playing up to his potential defensively. “I think my whole overall game could get better, though. I think that I could be a better player. And that’s the way I work, what I’m striving towards.”

    The Warriors need less striving and more doing. Although veteran Stephen Jackson is set to return to the lineup Friday against Atlanta after missing four games with a strained hamstring, Golden State is still without second-year guard Marco Belinelli (sprained ankle), who’s been one of its better perimeter defenders to this point in the season.

    That means Crawford — who has picked up no more than three fouls in a single game as a Warrior, and is averaging 1.04 fouls per contest with Golden State — must become more involved at that end of the court.

    “That’s something that he has to work on,” Smart said. “I’ve told him, ‘Nobody probably ever told you how important it is that you play defense. This is something that has to be a part of you as a point guard in the NBA. You have to give more effort playing defensively.’ So a lot of this stuff is new being reinforced to him. . . . We’re looking at it from ground zero.”

    Crawford’s self-assessment of his defense is a mixed bag.

    “On the ball, it’s not so bad, unless it’s a pick and roll and we’re doing coverages or whatever,” Crawford said. “I think I have to get better off the ball, honestly. I think off the ball sometimes I can get caught up watching and then a back cut happens, or something like that.”

    The numbers paint a darker picture. According to 82games.com, among the 204 players with enough minutes to qualify for inclusion on the leaderboards, Crawford ranks dead last in points allowed by his team when he’s on the floor, at 122.0 per 100 possessions. (Sacramento’s Spencer Hawes is next-to-last at 116.3; Cleveland’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas leads at 97.0.)

    Crawford is also No. 204 in the net change between his team’s defense with him on versus off the floor. The Warriors are 15.1 points better when Crawford is on the bench. The only other guys who managed to reach double digits were Memphis’ O.J. Mayo (12.7), Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (12.1), Utah’s C.J. Miles (11.9) and San Antonio’s Michael Finley (11.2).

    Although he may be the most extreme example, Crawford is hardly alone on the Warriors roster in terms of his sponginess quotient on defense.

    C.J. Watson comported himself credibly when matched up against Sacramento’s Kevin Martin in the Kings’ 135-133 triple-overtime victory on Wednesday, but for much of the year has been a blow-by machine. Although it’s attributable in part to his valiant if ludicrous attempt to play through his sprained left hand, Jackson has not been the stopper he once was; the Warriors actually allow 1.5 more points per 100 possessions with Jackson on the floor. (Last season, the Warriors were 2.8 points per 100 possessions to the better defensively when Jackson was playing.)

    That being said, Crawford has some of the most untapped potential among the Warriors defenders. Smart thinks Crawford could transform himself into a latter-day Micheal Ray Richardson (the four-time NBA steals champion) by putting his long arms to better use creating more deflection. Early on in games, you can often see Crawford standing with his arms outstretched when defending a player who is facing up on the perimeter, but his commitment seems to waver as the game goes on and he forgets (or it too fatigued) to follow through in that area.

    Crawford also needs to break his habit of giving up on screen-roll plays where the big man switches onto the smaller player, since that feeds into the Warriors’ lack of success in defending the NBA’s most prevalent form of attack. If Andris Biedrins or Ronny Turiaf pick up the guard, it’s up to Crawford (or Watson or Belinelli or Jackson) to get back and keep Biedrins or Turiaf’s cover from getting an open, point-blank layup — something that’s become a staple of Warriors opponents.

    “If you are beaten, the next thing you have to do is keep coming, because someone may pick up your guy, and you have to help with the next thing,” Smart said. “That’s where he — and all of our guys — have to grow. If you’re beaten at the point of attack, you have to get to the next phase.”

    Another part of the Warriors’ challenge is to rid Crawford of the mentality that a defensive lapse is no big deal because it can be easily washed away by a quick bucket at the other end. That’s the kind of thing that leads to sloppy shootouts where the Warriors’ inability to secure defensive rebounds with regularity really comes back to bite them.

    So Smart will be happy to hear that Crawford readily admits a good offense does not qualify as the best defense.

    “Offenses come and go,” Crawford said. “I mean, look at a team like the Celtics. Their staple is defense, and everything else plays off of that, and that’s why they’re successful. I think when you are on defense like that, you give yourself a chance to win every night.

    “Most NBA games come down to two possessions at the end, and at times it’s whoever can execute or whoever can get that last stop at the end. And there’s a fine line between wins and losses.”

    Contact: geofflepper@48minutes.net

39 Responses to “Warriors trying to rebuild Jamal Crawford’s defense from ‘ground zero’”

  1. Keith Smart is still talking about individual steals and deflections = defense, huh?

    Getting our bad streak shooters punched in the face before the other team shakes the terriers to romp the league’s crappiest team defense and rebounding seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

  2. Geoff Great article thanks.

    Once again I disagree with Cohan who seems to be suggesting that Keith Smart, a Bobby Knight disciple doesn’t understand defense?? WTF! . For the warriors, steals and deflections are crucial because they end the offensive teams possession. If we could grab defensive rebounds it would be of secondary importance….but since we can’t seem to do that we must to have steals and deflections. (see Warriors, 2007) I’m guessing Cohan never played any organized basketball. After they teach you to always stay in front of you man, the second thing out of coaches mouths is get your hands up (but it is not only for steals and deflections it can also disrupt the offensive players vision)

    If you wanna talk basic skills one reason our rebounding consistently sucks is that Nelson does not believe in fully boxing out a player after the shot goes up. I think it was a Jim Barnett piece that showed Nelson’s teachings of touching your man then going for the rebound.

  3. The idea you play the young guys to develop them can ruin players because they develop bad habits and learn the wrong lessons. Crawford is a poster child of this problem.

    Crawford was drafted 7th after 1 year at Michigan St. and was sawppwed for Chris Mihm on Draft day. He played on those horrible Bulls teams loaded with high draft picks, (Tyson Chandler 2nd, Eddy Curry-4th, Marcus Fizer-4th and etc).

    Bulls GM Krause hired a college coach to develop these kids and build a championship team. The goal was to play them and lose but eventually the young guys would jell into a dynasty. Only Chandler has panned out and that was after he was traded to New Orleans.

    The Bulls changed GMs and Coaches. They began to use playing time to change Crawford’s habits and they drafted Duke PG Jay Williams #2.

    When Crawford became a Restricted FA, the Bulls wanted to resign him but Issiah Thomas made a unreasonably high offer the Bulls refused to match.

    Crawford played for those dysfunctional NY Knicks teams and continued with his bad habits and little discipline.

    I doubt Crawford can be trained to defend without taking it personal and tuning the coach out. He may have a Darius Miles stellar year prior in a contact year but the guy is too established to change his game. He’ll want a trade.

    BTW steals defense. Ask another X-Warrior Larry Hughes who gambles for steals but often fails and is out of position. He forces teammates to help or foul to stop the basket. Hughes, like Crawford, doesn’t defend and is now sitting on the bench in Chicago because they’re sick of him.

  4. Smart says Crawford, a NINE YEAR VET, is at “ground zero” with his defense!

    The next time Crawford gets in a defensive stance will be the first time! What fricken film are they watching! Then Smart says JC needs to use his long arms, blah,blah, blah…Smart probably never heard Bill Russell say you play defense with your FEET!

    Crawford doesn’t acrue fouls because he’s always chasing his man. Don’t know what’s worse Crawfords defense or Smart’s defensive coordinating!

  5. sorry to be fatalistic, but, in general, once a bad defensive player always a bad defensive player. agree with the comment above. after 9 years, he hasn’t figured out how to even try to stop someone getting to the basket in order to foul them? just like once a bad defensive coach always a bad defensive coach.

  6. The problem with Cohan’s analysis is he seems to think using your arms and using your feet are mutuallly exclusive talents. They aren’t.

    Crawford, in general, seems to dislike body contact. He shies away from it on both ends of the court. A guy like that will never defend well.

  7. Bobby Knight would probably cringe if he saw how poor the defensive fundamentals are under Smarts tutelage!

  8. Where Smart comes up with this I donno:
    “That’s something that he has to work on,” Smart said. “I’ve told him, ‘Nobody probably ever told you how important it is that you play defense. This is something that has to be a part of you as a point guard in the NBA. You have to give more effort playing defensively.’ So a lot of this stuff is new being reinforced to him. . . . We’re looking at it from ground zero.”

    Larry Brown, Knicks coach, never told Crawford how important it is to defend? Or Bulls GM NBA PG John Paxson and his coach Bill Cartwright?


  9. Geoff,
    Do you know if Smart… and Crawford… respectively are aware of this ‘last place rating’ for Jamal - and what is their reaction?

    It is concerning that he thinks it is only his ‘help’ defense - he remains in denial. He doesn’t close out on jump shots and he let’s his guy get penetration way too much. I wonder if the stats might be the cold dose of reality to get his head right.

  10. Watching this team play defense this season is…huh.
    I actually haven’t seen this team play defense this season.
    If Keith Smart is supposed to be the heir apparent, we’re in for another 13 year dry spell.

  11. Thanks for the article, Geoff. While playing with the numbers can be fun, I really appreciate that actual defensive concepts were discussed - playing close, arms up, being disruptive, off the ball, switching, pursuing the play, working as part of a team. People can learn beyond the age of 27, and any improvement by Jamal will help the entire team. The important thing is to make the commitment. I’m sure Crawford heard plenty of lectures about playing defense before he got here. Let’s hope he’s ready to take them seriously, and make some changes.

  12. Well with all of that said- why don’t they start pulling guys when they aren’t playing D the right way? Nellie surely does this with Randolph, Morrow and Wright. He also did it with Belinelli and it got Belinelli to start d-ing up. He needs to hold everyone to the same standard.

  13. Step 1 in demanding and getting defensive improvement? Crawford’s minutes:

    1) If he’s playing 50 minutes, he ain’t gonna play good defense. Period

    2) If he’s playing 50 minutes, it means you haven’t yanked him when he plays bad defense. Which means he has no reason to stop playing bad defense. Hence the problem.

    Crawford’s a poor defender, but on top of that player accountability and fatigue are coaching problems

  14. An optimist sez:
    “People can learn beyond the age of 27, and any improvement by Jamal will help the entire team. The important thing is to make the commitment. I’m sure Crawford heard plenty of lectures about playing defense before he got here. Let’s hope he’s ready to take them seriously, and make some changes.”

    NBA players with contracts like Jamal have a posse of guys telling them otherwise. He’ll more likely want a trade than change.

    Jamal has tuned out John Paxson, Bill Cartwright and Larry Brown. He’s leaned to accept losing given he’s played on bad teams all his career.

    Keith Smart and playing for a bad warrior’s team isn’t going to get to Crawford’s attention.

    If the Celtics or Spurs traded for him (they wouldn’t BTW) he’d be benched and lectured by the coaches and players about playing NBA basketball including defense. Alas, they know better.

  15. Jamal Crawford will be playing the rest of the year for offensive stats so he can find a better deal this summer and get out of GS. Defense is a team idea; that holds little interest for him.

  16. Those stats are nice and all but its not usually Crawfords man who explodes on us. Last game it as Brad Miller, Indy game was Granger, Laker game was Kobe. Nobody on this team plays lock down defense. Nobody really played defense before Crawford got here. Blame should get spread around.

  17. Meaningless stat whoring . Do those stats take into account offensive rebounds ? Who you are on the court with at the time ? minutes differentials ? I could go on .and on . Oh yeah what about the most important one . PACE !!! The very fact that we play at the fastest pace in the nba creates more possessions and inflates all stats based on PER POSSESSIONS.

    Our defense is wretched at times but it also is very good at times if we were a decent rebounding team I think we would see obvious improvement in our defense numbers. We gave up 30 and 20 to BRAD MILLER and beaten on the boards just bout every game .

    JoeSez- My uncle who is in town on business from NY says you are wrong.

    John Paxson never coached a team.

    Crawford tore his acl his second year

    Beat out Jay Williams for the starting spot

    Says Cartwright played Jay Williams and Crawford together and they were actually a good duo but then Williams had that accident .

    Never had a problem with Cartwright and basically says every coach Crawford has ever had loves the guy and that he is very coachable .he claims Brown said Crawford improved more than anyone hes ever coached in his time in NY and that Crawford played defense under brown..

    This is from a knicks fan married to a chicago girl so im just repeating what he said after I asked him about your comments on Crawford tonight.

    He also says that Crawford will do whatever the coach asks and that if defense is the focal point Crawford will put out defensively. Claims if the coaches stay on him like Larry Brown did we will see improvement but after watching the game with me tonight we wont see the returns unless we get some more size.

    Our entire team needs improvement defensively there is more than enough blame to go around .

    Geoff mentioned the pick and roll defense and how the guards have to recover. Well a week from tonight we play the Cavs who are the leagues best defensive team right now .Well lets keep track of how they play the pick and roll and compare it to how we do it .Watch how all of their bigs get out on the pick and roll and actually turn the ballhandler away from the basket allowing their teammate to pick up the screener and then return to their own man. We dont turn ballhandlers and Bibby waltzed right down the lane and ATL didnt turn them either and Crawford went right around and hit the jumpshot now next week watch how the cavs play it and everyone will see that hustle from the guards is important but its the BIgs who make you a good defensive team under these current rules .

  18. Keith Smart is no Knight disciple, you schmuck. Just because he played for him…
    He’s a thorough Nelson no-defense defense acolyte. Time to learn the game, Warrior Matt.

  19. MountainJim, I haven’t even BEGUN to blow your mind with my considerable analytic chops. We’re starting at ground zero with you and Warrior Matt, who suck at the Nellie teet without reservation. Smart knows this about defense: Nellie told me to count deflections and steals and a few other useless ball bother tricks. We don’t play defense and can’t actually stop anyone from scoring. We play a bit of possession disruption, but only a few times a game.

  20. Bob sums nicely:

    The latest BS Warriors release is blame game idiocy that gets us nowhere. Again.
    The spin and damage control from this sad sack franchise peaks with the early Ellis activation putsch and “complication.” Pending…

  21. Crawford’s quotes here are disappointing. The first step in fixing a problem is understanding that you have a problem, and he seems to be under the delusion that he plays OK defense right now.
    Sadly there is no stat for this, but I wonder if he has ever hit the ground for a loose ball in his entire life? If’s kinda hard to imagine….

  22. All that matters is that Gears of war three starts pretty soon

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