A lot of rookies are handled with kid gloves. They're coddled, to a certain degree,and heavily invested in and supported. Javaris Crittenton didn't have quite so soft of a rookie season. He was drafted nineteenth by the Lakers, who already had Jordan Farmar and Vlad Radmanovic, not to mention Kobe Bryant, and who added Derek Fisher. Then, in the midst of an exciting season on a premier playoff-caliber team, he was traded in his first season to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the swindle that brought Pau Gasol to Staples Center. Crittenton, however, had tremendous athletic talent, and really started to make an impact as the year wen ton in Memphis. As this season, started, though, he found himself on the block again, the subject of constant rumors, including the now failed Zach Randolph rumor.
I caught up with Crittenton last week and talked to him about dealing with the harsh realities of the NBA that many rookies are shielded from, working with Mark Price, and keeping focused amidst distraction.
MM: What's the biggest thing you learned last year?
JC: The biggest thing I learned last year is this is a business. You've got to be professional. You've got to come to work prepared. So in the offseason I spent time working on things I needed to improve on last year.
MM: What did you work on specifically?
JC: A lot of shooting. I worked with Mark Price down in Atlanta. You know, he's a shooting coach down in Atlanta. He was with the Grizzlies for a minute, now he's with the Hawks. I did a whole lot of shooting. Form shooting. He broke my shot down on video tape so I could see what I was doing wrong. I took a lot of shots.
MM: You've been described as a combo guard. I was curious as to whether you felt more comfortable at the two or the one?
JC: I feel more comfortable at the one. I can play anywhere my team needs me. I can play the one, the two, or the three. As long as I'm on the court, if there's a need, I'll fill it. I can shoot the ball, I can pass the ball, depending on what the team needs me to do. Right now we're stacked at point guard, so I've been playing off the ball a lot. I can play on the ball or off the ball. I've been playing the one and the two so far in camp.
MM: What was the experience like in being moved in your first year from LA to Memphis and then dealing with your name being involved in the Zach Randolph talks that fizzled out a few weeks ago?
JC: It was tough, I gotta say. Like I said, I learned this is a business. You can only control those things you can control. And those things that are out of my control, the decisions that are made by the front office and the GMs, they make those decisions. All I can do is do what I do. Come out, be a professional, and play ball. It's a business. It was tough, though, when I first got moved. My girlfriend moved out with me. She transferred out to USC to be with me. So there was a lot to deal with. But that's part of the business.
MM: If you don't mind me asking, are you two still together?
MM: Did she transfer out to Memphis?
JC: No, because she's there and she's got credits and it's hard to figure out how to match those things up. Plus, this is her last year. All that plus the fact that, you know, there's so much speculation, you don't want to move again and be in the same situation.
MM: How have the coaches interacted with you this year?
JC: They've been positive. They've had us working and shooting a lot. They haven't told me what role they specifically want me to play, they just want to see how training camp goes and then go from there.
MM: Have you noticed a change on defensive coaching this year?
JC: Oh, yeah. We've got a lot of bigger bodies this year, and everything's been more physical. We're working on a lot on defense. A lot of pick and roll work.
MM: I read some reports that said you guys were trapping on the pick and roll in practice a bit more. With the point guards that are in the West, where it's so stacked, do you guys feel like you can be effective trapping on the pick and roll?
JC: I think so. That's the plan. We have to be positive about what we're trying to do, so I'll say yes.
MM: Who's really impressed you in camp so far?
JC:Marc Gasol. He's impressed me. He shoots the ball, he's a good passer out of the post, and he's a great talent.
MM: What do you do in your spare time?
JC: Man, I've got two-a-days right now, I don't have much spare time. I have to focus on doing everything I can to improve on the court.