The major storyline of Wednesday night's game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks is obviously the return of Jamal Crawford, who played two seasons with the Hawks -- winning NBA 6th Man of the Year in 2010 -- before signing with the Blazers during the December free agency period.
Here's a mini round-up.
Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has an appreciative blog post including thoughts from Hawks coach Larry Drew...
In a way, Crawford might have been the best example of that what bugs stats folks about the Hawks: He could do things that confound the formulas. Viewed in the aggregate over the long term, Crawford's numbers seem pedestrian. But if you spent too much time picking at his weaknesses, you could miss that he often delivered in big games and important moments like the one above.
Now Crawford is off to a slow start with Portland but is there any doubt he's going to try to put on a show tonight like old times?
"I am sure Jamal is going to want to come in here and light us up," Drew said. "I do know that."
There was a mixed reaction among fans when the team made no real effort to re-sign him before he bolted for Portland. It probably fell along that efficiency/electricity divide. But there is little doubt Crawford will receive a warm welcome tonight from Hawks fans. He won them over with his big shots, flashy style and engaging personality.
Sekou Smith of NBA.com writes...
"It feels good to be back here and in a familiar environment," he said. "But it also feels good to be wearing this Blazers jersey and to have moved on to a great situation."
This time a month ago Crawford wasn't sure where he'd be playing. He wasn't sure there'd even be a season, having waited out the lockout as a free agent and then getting shoved into an abbreviated offseason flurry of activity that took place basically over the course of a week.
"It was tough," Crawford said. "It was almost like a tornado, when you're caught up in something that's bigger than anything, and how compressed everything was. At first, you weren't even sure we were going to have a season and then when we did, you couldn't do this or that. It was just a weird situation. And that's why, moving forward, things are going to be a lot more stable."
Jon Newberry of HawksBasketBlog.com writes...
Wherever he goes he quickly becomes a fan favorite for two main reasons.
1) Jamal is most accurately described as a scorer, and the way he plays the game is pure entertainment. Take your pick between breaking people down with ridiculous handles, rising up for 4-point plays, or attacking the lane for tricky floaters. Jamal does it all on the offensive end.
2) Jamal is a great guy. He treats fans and media with a great deal of respect and appreciation.
Watching Jamal warm up a few minutes ago showed why both reasons are still valid. The enthusiasm in which he greeted familiar faces (from ‘Nique to Philips Arena staffers to Zaza) showed the personal impression he left here in Atlanta. The jump shots he hit reminded me that we better have a hand (or two) in his face tonight.
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian from shootaround...
Crawford downplayed the idea that he will bring extra motivation into tonight's game against his former teammates.
"You try not to think about it that way," he said. "Because ... you don't want to put yourself ahead of the team. I think I'm more concerned with getting in the flow here and trying to get some more road wins than anything."
Kris Willis of PeachTreeHoops.com has a rundown of the Crawford era in Atlanta...
Then Hawks coach Mike Woodson successfully cast Crawford into the Vinnie Johnson role giving him ample opportunity to do the things that made him successful. Woodson put Crawford on the attack and the result was good for both the Hawks and Crawford who was named as the Sixth Man of the Year. During that 2010 season, Hawks general manager Rick Sund hosted a group of Hawks bloggers and said that he was surprised at how well Crawford had fit in to his new role.
Crawford had an up and down season in his second year with the Hawks as he was forced to adjust to new coach Larry Drew who wanted a more balanced attack. Jamal was asked to be more of a facilitator for the offense under Drew and he tried to adapt but his season clearly wasn't as productive as the 2010 campaign. He was however a key part of Atlanta's first round victory over the Orlando Magic in the playoffs.
Jonathan Tjarks of SBNation Atlanta writes that Atlanta is making due just fine without Crawford...
The Hawks bench, meanwhile, has thrived without Crawford thanks to the under-the-radar signings of several savvy veterans -- Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmanovic, Willie Green and Ivan Johnson.
Portland and Atlanta are two of the deepest teams in the NBA, which may be why they are two of the league's biggest surprises as well, as the compressed 66-game regular season has made bench depth vital this season.
Andrew Lynch of Hardwood Paroxysm writes...
Hey, guys, it's Jamal Crawford's return to Atlanta! I wonder how he'll celebrate. 25+ shots, anyone? Anyone? Blazers fans?
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter