Crittenton Getting Tough Love
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."
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