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Crittenton Getting Tough Love

Why the long face? I don't know. I really like it here in D.C. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the Washington Wizards traded for point guard Javaris Crittenton last December, Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt got a phone call from an old friend, Wizards assistant Randy Ayers, telling him that he would look out for Crittenton. Hewitt said he trusted that Crittenton was entering the best situation of his young career.

"He's very lucky to be in Washington now," Hewitt said about his former player in a telephone interview.

Crittenton spent one season at Georgia Tech, although he admits that he would've tried to enter the league out of high school if the NBA hadn't established the age minimum. But after going through these past two seasons -- from not playing to learning the nuances of the league and attempting to grasp one of the most difficult positions -- Crittenton believes that going to college, even for just one year, is a better alternative.

Hewitt said Crittenton had just begun to grasp his system toward his final 10 or so games at Georgia Tech. When Crittenton told him that he was declaring for the draft after one season, Hewitt said he tried to tell Crittenton that he would've easily averaged a double-double as a sophomore. Hewitt supported Crittenton's decision, and never asked him if he had second thoughts after a difficult season because "somebody told me, 'You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.' "

Crittenton isn't thinking about putting anything back in the tube, especially now that he is getting an opportunity to play in Washington. And, Hewitt's friendship with Ayers has helped Crittenton develop with the Wizards. Ayers kept his promise to look out for Crittenton and, much like interim coach Ed Tapscott, he has been in the second-year guard's ear all season. Ayers constantly gets on Crittenton about how to get over screens in pick-and-roll situations and offers advice on Crittenton's still-flawed shooting form. After Crittenton missed a free throw during a scrimmage on Tuesday, Ayers yelled from the sideline, "Keep that left arm up a little longer."

"A lot of people think it's personal because he be on me," Crittenton said of Ayers. "My teammates say he gets on me over something small. I'm like, 'Relax. He's just trying to make me a better player.' And I understand that. Sometimes [my teammates] don't.

"If I make a defensive mistake, he knows that I can do it. He tells me that I have the physical tools, and if I keep listening, I can be a great defender. I appreciate that."

Crittenton is a quick guard who can get to the cup and change the tempo in a hurry, but he still working on becoming a better decision-maker. He can do the spectacular, such as last Saturday, when he dove for a loose ball, turned and fired an outlet pass to Dominic McGuire for a break away dunk -- all before his body hit the floor.

Sometimes, he tries too hard, though, such as a fast break opportunity against Indiana on Sunday, when the Wizards had numbers. If Crittenton had thrown a regular chest past, the play would've ended in a layup or dunk. Instead, Crittenton tried a prettier bounce pass that slowed up the break and allowed the Pacers to get back on defense.

But when I was talking to Crittenton a few days ago, Caron Butler interrupted the interview, patted him on the chest and said, "He's coming along, man. He really is."

Antawn Jamison also had some nice things to say about Crittenton. "He needs to slow down every once in a while, but he goes hard," Jamison said. "I like him a lot. I like what he does. I like what he stands for. I see him being a part of the future of the team."

With Gilbert Arenas back, Crittenton said he's going to pick his brain as much as possible. He added that he plans on working with Arenas over the summer. "He's progressing as a young player. He comes in and works," Arenas said. "I'm trying to show him the ropes, doing some of the cheating and holding, stuff I've learned form players like Gary Payton and John Stockton. That's my job."

By Michael Lee  |  April 1, 2009; 8:45 AM ET
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Next: Morning Buzz: Lining Up for Blake


Crittendon's gonna be sick

Posted by: PrisonBalls00 | April 1, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I like Critt. Just needs to get in the gym this summer and shoot jumpers with Gil and shooting coach Dave Hopla and he'll be fine...

Posted by: MEssex | April 1, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Big Critt believer her, and I like what he brings as a change of pace from Gil off the bench, as a big guard who can complement Gil during the times they play together in the backcourt, and as a defense and pass-first style to pair with bench scoring like Nick Young.

Random aside, I read the Lawrence Frank isn't necessarily secure this offseason, and I wonder what the folks here think about him. I think he could be a nice fit here in DC.

Posted by: GshawnJohnson | April 1, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I like that L. Frank idea. Our future is tied to riding our $111 Mil point guard to the playoffs. Frank is quite accustomed to coaching a PG dominated team. All our players already know they are subordinate to our PG. The worst thing we could do is bring in a coach who has a vastly different approach than EJ. That's a good call Gshawn. there anyone from the Mike D'Antoni coaching tree we could pluck?

Posted by: cballer | April 1, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Lawrence Frank? Hell to the No!! I want a coach who is better than EJ not some Richie Cunningham wannabe I'm not interested in a coach that is going to have some of the same issues as Tapscott i.e. communication,respect for his ability,player development, and so on PLEASE!!! you fire EJ(playoffs last four years) and you want to bring "Larry" in absolutely not.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 1, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

The coach and captains apparently like hard work and dislike young knuckleheads.

In this culture, Crit and McGuire have improved.

McGee, Blatche and Young have not.

The only problem is that McGee, Blatche and Young have more potential.

And Crit and McGuire are not talented enough to take them to the second round.

The team needs to figure out how to work with the perceived knuckleheads (or trade them to somebody who can realize their potential).

Posted by: Izman | April 1, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

i really like crits attitude

Posted by: riskus | April 1, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I think Blatche has improved, not as much as McGuire, but has improved as the season progresses, especially when comparing to the first 11 games under EJ (when he "regressed" from last season).

This season, Blatche averaged 10.3 points over 24 minutes, comparing to last year's 7.5 points in 20 minutes while shooting at the same percentage. He has more assists, but also more turnovers. I do like to see him gets more rebounds and cuts down on the turnovers.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 1, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Crit was a solid addition to the team. I like his attitude and his play on the court. I'm glad D'brick and James aren't around to waste minutes ahead of him.

Posted by: Fontana1 | April 1, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Critt is going to be a very good player in this league. Grunfeld did a great job of stealing him from Memphis. In two years he could start at the 1 and let Gil slide over to the 2.

Love his attitude. His desire to get better and high potential has given us something positive and what has been a tough, tough year for Wiz fans.

Posted by: DMoney28 | April 1, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully they will find some way to trade Dbrick and James. It was a huge mistake to sign Stevenson to begin with. There had to have been a reason as to why Orlando let him walk. Oh well. Anyone know what is wrong with Etan. I thought he was only supposed to be out for a minute, not the whole season!

Posted by: ivyleague | April 1, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I disagree. Crittenton's development is much more important to the Wizards in the long-term than Nick Youngs.

The Wizards already have enough jump shooters and wing players, what they need is a quick backcourt player with good size who can create matchup problems and play a tough defensive game.

While he is raw Crittenton seems to understand that his role in Washington to survive is in large part going to have to be as a contributor on the defensive end, something that Nick Young I don't believe will ever get.

Young wants to be Gilbert Arenas. He wants to jack 20 shots a game and be a clutch player.

That position is already filled.

Posted by: leopard09 | April 1, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Critt has some serious handles.

Posted by: jeremydvid | April 1, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Critt is my favorite of the young core. I think he was an absolute steal. He's young and still needs work, but he's a worker, he's improving week by week and he has the physical tools to be a very solid NBA point guard. The thing that is most important to me though is that he plays defense. He works on both ends of the floor and with Nick Young as his future back court mate off the bench next season the Wiz need Critt to handle the tougher defensive assignment.

I was at the Detroit game and Critt was an absolute pest on defense. He made a few really nice defensive plays leading to easy scores, but more importantly he didn't take any plays off on defense.

Posted by: jon_quest | April 1, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse


Etan - knee ligament damage. the team never fully disclosed the severity.

I think Blatche is one of the least basketball intelligent players i've seen. I don't have much hope that he can grow much beyond what he is. A 7 foot guy who wants to crossover from 19 feet and drive for a finger roll or no look pass to the other team. he's still young but 3 or 4 years of this madness makes me believe he just isn't smart enough to get it.

Posted by: unkonchus | April 1, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"A lot of people think it's personal because he be on me," Crittenton said of Ayers. "My teammates say he gets on me over something small. I'm like, 'Relax. He's just trying to make me a better player.' And I understand that. Sometimes [my teammates] don't.

"If I make a defensive mistake, he knows that I can do it. He tells me that I have the physical tools, and if I keep listening, I can be a great defender. I appreciate that."
This is a very telling comment, and a cautious tale about the dangers of leaving college early. I get the feeling after reading this that some of the other young guns don't want to listen to Ayers -- which goes a LONG way toward explaining the predicament this team is now in.


Posted by: jcbcmb68 | April 1, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

"Hewitt said he tried to tell Crittenton that he would've easily averaged a double-double as a sophomore."

By Michael Lee | April 1, 2009; 8:45 AM ET

This is ridiculous. No one has average 10 assists a game in the ACC in recent memory. Usually the league leader has somewhere between 6-7 assists per game. Even Chris Paul averaged just 7 assists per game. To say Crittenton would have "easily averaged a double-double" his sophomore year at Gtech is pure fantasy.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 1, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

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