ATLANTA — Jamal Crawford ended the suspense before it began.
The Hawks’ sixth man and the league’s reigning Sixth Man Award winner was in uniform for media day Monday on the practice court at Philips Arena.
And he was smiling, exchanging handshakes and hugs with anyone that crossed his path.
That doesn’t mean he’s abandoned his request for an extension or a trade, if that extension is not possible with the Hawks. He absolutely has not.
But in a show of sincerity, he came to camp to make sure to set the record straight about exactly what it is he’s asking for.
“I wasn’t close to not coming or anything but it was hard to get on that plane and come here,” Crawford said, repeating the word “hard” five times to make his point. “It really was. Because I’m in a weird space. I waited 10 years to get here, helping my team to one of the best home records in the league, snagging home court advantage and making the playoffs for the first time while helping the team to one of the best records in franchise history. It’s hard to be a part of all that and then feel like you are not a part of the future. But I’m a professional. And I need to make this clear, I want to be here, I want to be an Atlanta Hawk. If I’m not a part of the plan going forward, then that’s a conversation we need to have later.”
Later could be anytime between now and the start of the season or beyond. Since there has been no movement on the extension talks the trade discussion could be next. Two teams have made serious inquires about Crawford, per one of my league sources, only to be rebuffed by the Hawks.
Crawford is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $10.1 million this season with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement set to be negotiated at the end of this season. Crawford and his representatives approached the Hawks in July about their desire to discuss a potential contract extension, with the option of exploring trade opportunities beneficial to both sides if something couldn’t be worked out.
Hawks coach Larry Drew would not address any specifics concerning Crawford but did praise him for handling the situation like a “pro” and being in camp on time with the rest of his teammates. (It should also be noted that a quick click on Hawks.com shows that the two most prominent faces plastered all over the front page are the smiling mugs of of Crawford and four-time All-Star and team captain Joe Johnson, who signed his six-year, $120 million deal with the team in July.)
“There’s a way to go about these things and a time and a place where it all gets worked out,” Drew said. “We’ve got everybody here, ready to go and ready to handle business. I’m glad to see everybody and we’re ready to go.”
Despite rumblings to the contrary in the weeks leading up to camp, Crawford said there was no reason to doubt that he’d be among that group.
“I’m always going to be a professional,” Crawford said. “I don’t want to be a problem or anything. I have too much respect for LD to do anything to disrupt training camp. It’s just a weird situation. You talk about your core pieces and the future and I just want to be a part of that. I want to be here in Atlanta. I love playing here with these guys and for these fans. I’m still hopeful that something works out, but obviously I don’t control this situation … but I have said all along that this is where I want to be.”