When Jordan Crawford signed a 10-day contract with New Orleans hours before a March 6 game at Utah, it barely made a ripple, just another in-season transaction buried in the agate type of a newspaper sports section. In short order, however, the shooting guard would emerge as one of the biggest bright spots of the Pelicans’ 2016-17 season and play so well that he became the new owner of an ultra-popular nickname (which later led to Crawford receiving a gift package from the Quaker Oats company. We’ll explain).
From the moment Crawford set foot on the Jazz’s home floor, he personified the term “instant impact,” knocking down a jumper mere seconds into his Pelicans debut. The buckets just kept coming over the next two months, as the Xavier (Ohio) product resurrected his NBA career and provided valuable scoring punch off the bench for the Pelicans. He’d spent the previous two-plus seasons out of the league.
Crawford finished the season as New Orleans’ fourth-leading scorer (14.1, behind Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday), despite averaging just 23.3 minutes per game. While compiling one of the best stretches of his NBA career, Crawford easily surpassed his single-season career highs in a range of categories, including field-goal percentage (48.2, his previous best was 41.5) and three-point percentage (38.9, topping 33.7).
“It’s definitely been a great experience, as far as play,” he said, the day after the season concluded. “I thought I could do better at times. I’m just thankful for the Pelicans accepting me. I just want to say thanks to them.
“I had a great experience here, won some games, kind of got on a roll, great coaching staff, GM accepted me, everyone accepted me.”
Early in his time with New Orleans, Crawford was unintentionally given the nickname “Instant Grits” by Cousins, who used a food analogy to describe how quickly Crawford can heat up and provide scoring. That led to Quaker sending Crawford packages of its grits, a popular Southern comfort food.
Having played for five different NBA teams, Crawford is one of the Pelicans’ more experienced players, but he’s only reached the postseason twice, something he’d like to increase in 2017-18. New Orleans won eight of its first 13 games with Crawford in uniform, perhaps its best stretch of ’16-17.
“I’ve always got to fight – that’s life,” Crawford said, when asked if it’s nice to have the comfort of knowing he played so well this season. “But it’s good to have something to work toward, to try to get better and hopefully make the playoffs next year. It’s an exciting time, just to get better.
“We’re close, for sure. But I think a lot of organizations are close. It’s about taking those steps that you know are needed, to get over the hump. It’s hard. It’s about fighting through adversity.”
NBA experience: 5 seasons (1 with Pelicans) || Games played/started: 19/0 || Age: 28