To call him a wild card is to insult the general stability of all things wild. Watch Jordan Crawford on the basketball court and it's a tornado of flailing arms and legs, Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil dribbling a ball.
Virtually anything is possible when Crawford touches the ball, and the Celtics have quickly learned to take the good with the bad. An out-of-control drive often ends with a layup from an impossible angle; an early-clock, 26-foot 3-pointer finds a way through the twine.
If Crawford were to turn and punt the ball 10 rows deep into the crowd, the coaching staff might simply shrug, knowing the next time down he'll zip a perfect pass to a big for an easy hoop.
After losing Leandro Barbosa to a torn ACL in February (on the heels of losing Rajon Rondo to the same injury), the Celtics were in dire need of a guard who could provide a scoring spark; a no-conscience shooter who could provide instant offense off the bench. Thin on bigs, Boston sacrificed veteran Jason Collins, one of its locker room leaders, to obtain a player with a bit of a tarnished reputation, whom the lowly Washington Wizards couldn't move fast enough.
It was a calculated risk, but that's Crawford in a nutshell.
On Saturday night in Memphis, the Celtics were staring at a 21-point deficit when coach Doc Rivers essentially waved the white flag at the end of a disastrous three-game road trip and sent Crawford in with instructions to simply create chaos.
Running with Chinese Basketball Association imports Shavlik Randolph, DJ White and Terrence Williams, Crawford erupted for 12 of his 21 points over the final seven minutes as the Celtics rallied within two before Memphis made its free throws to escape with a 110-106 victory.
In 15 games since joining Boston, Crawford is averaging 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists over 17.6 minutes per game. His shooting percentages are a bit of an eyesore (39.8 percent overall; 31.7 percent beyond the 3-point arc) and yet Crawford is exactly what the Celtics were seeking.
Crawford has been a serviceable rebounder for his size and has a knack for making highlight-caliber passes, something that didn't exactly top his scouting report. But Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge last week dubbed him potentially the best passer on the team.
Sure, Crawford has had head-shaking moments, such as the time in Indiana when he sailed an outlet pass that 7-foot Kevin Garnett would have needed a trampoline to haul in. But Saturday in Memphis, he threw a little baseball pass from the right corner that split a pair of defenders and led to an easy bucket for Chris Wilcox. Jerryd Bayless was downright incredulous after watching the ball zip past him and Zach Randolph to a practically unsuspecting Wilcox.
Welcome to the Jordan Crawford Experience.
Crawford and Bayless got into a mini dust-up during Saturday's game, the latter earning a technical after shoving Crawford for a little ball toss at his stomach after a foul on a layup attempt in transition.
Crawford has a way of getting under people's skin, mostly because he's impossible to predict.
Earlier this month, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was asked to describe Crawford's "herky-jerky" style. "You just did. That's him," Rivers answered with a smile. "He's one of those guys that, as a player, I wouldn't want to guard. I never liked guarding guys where you didn't know what he was doing, because he didn't know what he was doing. Those guys are difficult."
One of the biggest surprises has been that Crawford has been a serviceable defender. According to individual defensive numbers logged by Synergy Sports, Crawford is allowing a manageable 0.835 points per play, which ranks him in the 64th percentile leaguewide (grading him as "good" by Synergy's rankings). He really struggles against spot-up shooting, but he's been extraordinary against the pick-and-roll, and Boston at times has managed to mask his deficiencies in a zone.
The Celtics' defensive rating (99.4 points per 100 possessions for the season) jumps only a point when Crawford is on the floor and the team owns a 102.6 offensive rating with him, giving him a plus-2.2 differential. The Celtics are plus-6 in plus/minus for the 264 minutes of floor time Crawford has logged since he's arrived.
Is there a playoff role for Crawford? That out-of-control style could limit how often Rivers calls his number, but he's undoubtedly a weapon. In recent seasons, Rivers has predicted that the likes of Eddie House or Nate Robinson would help win a playoff game for Boston -- and they did. It's likely he'll predict something similar from Crawford.
One thing is certain: Everyone perks up a bit when Crawford touches the ball -- fans, coaches, teammates and opponents. He truly is a wild card, and that's exactly what Boston needed on its bench.