Jamal Crawford is not going quietly without an extension

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If the Jamal Crawford extension saga were a pot of water over the stove, the first tiny bubbles have started rising to the surface. It’s not a full-on boil, but you might want to get the macaroni ready.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with Crawford, and he’s starting to mentally prepare himself to play elsewhere this season. Despite, you know, being on contract with Atlanta who has little to no imperative to trade him.From the AJC:

“I would love to be here long term, no doubts about it. I would love to lock that up before I become a free agent. I want to make it work here. But if that is not the plan I guess I will go elsewhere.”

Crawford talks about loyalty in the interview, which is all well and good, but, um… has he been paying attention to any degree to the last six months? Players aren’t loyal to franchises, franchises aren’t loyal to players, owners aren’t loyal to each other, the whole thing’s a mess.

The Hawks have to be in a wait-and-see mode with the entire team. They were so good in the regular season last year and so bad in the playoffs against Orlando that there must be some level of consideration as to how this whole thing is going to shake out, especially with a new head coach and the team trying to integrate Jeff Teague into a bigger role. Oh, yeah, and Al Horford’s due an extension. Of course, maybe they should have taken this approach into account before they gave Joe Johnson the GNP of a small country.

Crawford’s next step is trade request, followed by holdout. That’s the nuclear option, and one Crawford has given no indication he’s willing to execute. But if nothing gets done, it could become a chemistry issue as the team tries to make progress in a much-improved East this season.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.