Wednesday night will mark the return of Jamal Crawford to Philips Arena for the first time since signing with the Trail Blazers this off season. Jamal enjoyed a successful two-year run with the Hawks and was a big part of the team's on court success.
The Hawks acquired Crawford in a trade with the Golden State Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Acie Law. The trade was viewed as an upside trade for the Hawks since they were able to unload Claxton's contract and Law had seemingly fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Interestingly the Hawks immediately asked Crawford to become the team's sixth man which was a role he accepted likely because he had never played for a winning team.
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.
Without a contract extension from the Hawks, Jamal was forced to seek other employment this off season. He often stated that his first choice was to remain in Atlanta but the Hawks' salary structure and reluctance to go into the luxury tax prevented them from making a competitive offer. Atlanta instead chose to give more time to Jeff Teague and has brought in vets like Tracy McGrady, Jannero Pargo and Willie Green to provide backcourt depth. So far it appears to have worked for Atlanta.
Crawford comes into Wednesday's game averaging 12 points a game in just over 24 minutes per for the Trail Blazers as their sixth man. Crawford's shooting hasn't come around yet (34 percent) but Atlanta fans know all to well of how quickly he can heat up. No doubt he will be looking to erase his recent struggles with a solid performance against his old club.
That is what Larry Drew's squad will be trying to prevent tonight when the Hawks host the Blazers in a nationally televised game on ESPN.