Jordan Crawford brings unexpected scoring punch to Pelicans bench unit

Jordan Crawford spent nearly three years away from the NBA before signing a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans in early March, which is hard to believe after what he did the last time he took the court in a regular season game.

Crawford’s last time playing in a regular season game before this year was when he scored 41 points to help the Golden State Warriors defeat the Denver Nuggets, 116-112, on Apr. 16, 2014.

The Warriors did go on to lose their first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Playoffs that season, and his performance in the last game of that series showed the mentality he brings every time he takes the court.

“My last game was (Golden State’s loss inGame 7),” Crawford said. “I had 12 points in 12 minutes. I like that one a little more.”

That point-per-minute mentality has turned Crawford into a potent weapon for the Pelicans (29-41) in his short time with the team after signing a 10-day contract earlier this month. That contract eventually led to New Orleans extending him a deal that would keep him with the team through next season.

Crawford is averaging 14.3 points in his first seven games with the Pelicans and is shooting a staggering 51.9 percent from the 3-point line on 5.4 attempts per game.

Crawford said that he was determined to make his way back into the league, and once he was given a chance by the Pelicans, his mission was to display that he was still capable of being an explosive scorer in the NBA.

“When I got the 10-day, that was the accomplishment. I didn’t really feel like I was on a 10-day once I was here,” Crawford said. “The hard part was getting the 10-day. I was grateful for the opportunity, when I (got) here I just wanted to make myself as comfortable as possible and just try to play my game.”

The Pelicans have been searching for the right perimeter players to put around star forward Anthony Davis all season, and that mission became even harder after shipping three shooting guards to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins on the night of the NBA All-Star game.

The Pelicans handed out 10-day contracts to multiple guards over the past month, until eventually landing on Crawford, which has made a major impact on the team in recent games.

The Pelicans have won four of their last five games in large part because of an offensive resurgence that has resulted in them averaging 117.6 points during that span.

New Orleans struggled mightily on the offensive end in the weeks following the Cousins trade, but Crawford’s addition has helped solidify the team’s backcourt rotation and given them a group of playmakers that can compete in a league where the pace-and-space model has become a vital part of success.

“The last two-and-a-half years I’ve been out the league, it’s kind of changed even more to two point guards on the floor, up-and-down, a lot of 3s,” Crawford said. “The guards really dictate the pace of the game. That’s a fun way to play and that’s the way I always grew up playing.”

Crawford and Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore have given New Orleans a combination that can swing games with their energy and scoring off the bench and the duo is averaging a combined 25 points over the past five games.

Wayne Selden’s departure left the Pelicans without a starting shooting guard going into Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry decided to move point guard Tim Frazier into the starting unit in an effort to keep Moore and Crawford together among the reserves.

The Pelicans ran away with a 123-109 victory, with Moore and Crawford combining to score 36 off the bench.

“That’s why we started Tim, because we just like that combination,” Gentry said. “I think those guys have done a good job of really kind of feeding off each other and they’ve been really good when they’ve been in as a pair. We didn’t want to disrupt that. We wanted to keep that how it was.”

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