As he was in Minnesota, Jamal Crawford depended on to lead Suns

Phoenix Suns guard Jamal Crawford is in a position similar to the one he was in a year ago.

He’s once again serving in a leadership role off the bench, playing limited minutes for a team trying to change its trajectory.

Only this Phoenix team — winner of just 12 games — is far worse, and Crawford is playing even less than he did a year ago in Minnesota.

After averaging 20 minutes a game with the Wolves, Crawford is averaging 17 with Phoenix.

“It’s been different, I guess,” Crawford said. “Obviously, we have a really, really young team. I’m trying to help guys grow. Having younger guys, even younger than in the past, it’s different, but it is what it is. You try to make the best of it.”

In Minnesota, Crawford didn’t have quite the role he imagined when he signed with the Wolves. He then turned down the player option available to him this summer to stay in Minnesota.

Asked what he thought about last season, Crawford said, “I don’t think about it.”

Crawford is playing more point guard for the Suns, putting him in more of a playmaking position than he’s accustomed to. What he is used to is the leadership position. Last season, Crawford was invaluable to the Wolves’ locker room, providing a steadying force during an up-and-down season. While there have been more downs than ups for the Suns this season, Crawford is having a similar effect in Phoenix.

“Obviously, we know what he did all these years, but his experience, his voice, his presence, his wisdom that he’s sharing with the guys in the locker room, it’s a great presence for our group,” Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov said. “We’re thrilled to have him in the locker room.”

Crawford said he tries to be a “truth teller” in the locker room. He leads with honesty but at the same time understands you have to talk to some teammates differently than others.

Phoenix’s season is on a predictable trajectory, with the Suns heading toward a poor record and a high draft pick. Still, Crawford just wants to see growth out of his young teammates.

“Obviously you’re not going to take over the world each day, but to get a little bit better each day and see guys progress, and we’ve had guys who’ve done that,” Crawford said. “It’s fun to see guys go from Point A to Point C, to see them setting a foundation for hopefully a long career.”

It’ll be interesting to see if Crawford gets moved by the February trade deadline if another team is interested in him. But he’s not thinking about that at the moment.

“I’m just entrenched in the situation and trying to make the best of any situation I’m in, not just this year, not just last year or years past, whenever it could have been,” Crawford said. “For me, it’s just being embraced and entrenched in this situation, and then go from there.”


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