SEATTLE – Tori Crawford is torn.
For the first time, her husband, Jamal, is home for the holidays with their three young kids and she's feeling a little bit guilty because it feels so good having the family together at the expense of his NBA career.
During their 13-year relationship, they always celebrated Christmas away from Seattle at hotels or basketball games while Crawford toiled in the league from 2000 to 2019 with eight different teams, including the Timberwolves in 2017-18.
But when the 19-year journeyman didn't land with a team at the start of the NBA season, he suddenly had time to do the things he's always wanted to do.
Crawford and his 6-year-old daughter, London, attended a dance at her school together. He's coaching his 9-year-old son, JJ, who is developing into a basketball prodigy.
And last week, the Crawford clan spent an evening distributing toys to nearly 100 kids at Emerson Elementary in Seattle.
"This is me," said Crawford, who stood tall in the middle of the room and beamed with delight while wearing a furry, red and white Santa hat. "This is what I'm all about.
"When I was younger, I used to always think making it to the NBA would be the coolest thing in the world. I'd dream about it every day. But as you progress and you attain that goal, then you realize the coolest thing is the effect you can have on people, and kids especially. For me this is like the coolest thing."
That's why Tori is torn.
She knows Crawford is hankering to resume his professional career.
"I feel like I'm right in the middle," she said. "I obviously want him to do what his passion is until he cannot do it anymore, but at the same time, every time his agent calls I'm like, 'Oh, no, is this the time? Is this the day he goes back to the NBA?'
"This would be the second year that we would be apart. Every year we'd go where he goes. When he was in L.A., we were there for six years. When he got traded to Minnesota, we moved to Minnesota. Then when he went to Phoenix [last season] and we were like, 'OK we'll stay home this time.' So yeah, I'm on the fence."
Crawford, who turns 40 in March, is unequivocal about his desires to play again.
"I'm not retired," he said adamantly. "But I am enjoying this time with my family."
Crawford, the first three-time winner of the NBA Sixth Man of the Year (2010, '14 and '16), has scored 19,414 points in 1,326 games and ranks 53rd on the NBA's career scoring list.
During 64 games off the bench last season with Phoenix, Crawford averaged just 7.9 points, his lowest since his rookie season. But he averaged 31.6 points in April, and he made history in the season finale — and possibly the final game of his career — by scoring 51 points in a loss at Dallas.
It would be a fitting sendoff for arguably the NBA's greatest bench player, but Crawford works out daily in anticipation of another chance in the league.
"I'm not bitter," Crawford said. "But I'm not in full reflective mode either. Still, at times I stop and I'm like wow. You had a commercial with Jay-Z and Michael Jordan. You had your own shoe. There's some really cool things that have happened along this journey that I don't normally get a chance to think about.
"So, either way, I can't lose because either I'm going back to play in the NBA or I'm going to be here with my family."
If not the NBA, what's next for Crawford?