LOS ANGELES- Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford doesn’t really need any real introduction to NBA aficionados. Anyone with a basketball pulse knows who Crawford is and what he can do on the hardwood. He can shoot lights out from just about anywhere on the floor. His ankle-breaking cross-over dribble renders defenders incapacitated as much as James Bond leaves his enemies hapless in his wake.
Crawford is a magician on the court, a Harry Houdini in baggie basketball shorts. But his biggest attribute is scoring points, something Crawford does as easily as a knife slicing through butter. He isn’t just a shooter. He is a scorer. Crawford can beat an opponent off the dribble with his cat-quick speed, blow by the defender and then hit the rack quicker than a rattlesnake can strike.
At 6-foot-5, Crawford can get off his dead-eye, perimeter shot against anyone in the league. And he doesn’t think twice about throwing it up in the basket. That is what he does. It’s Crawford’s calling card as one of the league’s most lethal scoring threats. It’s just part of Crawford’s basketball DNA to rack up points in bunches.
“I try to mix it up. I see myself more as a scorer than a shooter,” Crawford said after scoring 11 points in the Clippers’ 89-76 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center. “It’s fun. I have been doing this my whole life.”
That’s probably what the Clippers had in mind when they picked up Crawford and signed him to a free agent contract this offseason. The guy can straight up ball. Crawford is just one of a handful of current NBA players who have scored 50 points at least three times in their careers. Even though he is not one of the team’s starters, Crawford has managed to make his contributions count towards the success of the Clippers this season.
Crawford dropped 29 points in the Clippers’101-92 home-opening win against the Memphis Grizzlies, before making life miserable for the Los Angeles Lakers with a 21-point effort in the team’s 105-95 victory at Staples Center. The 2010 NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, Crawford leads the Clippers in scoring, pouring in just over 20 points game to help Los Angeles to a winning record and being considered a real contender vying for a spot in the NBA Finals.
When the Clippers signed him, Crawford said they wanted him to just be himself, which has sort of propelled him to just doing his thing.
“When they told me they wanted me, they said, “We want you to be who you are,’” Crawford said. “I said that I’ve been a scorer my whole life. They said there was a role for me to do that. They said they didn’t just want a guy who can just catch and shoot. They wanted a guy who can make plays off the dribble as well. I kind of knew that, but my teammates and coaches have made it so easy in this transition.”
Being a starter who can score at will is one thing. But coming off the bench to shoot lights out is a whole different mindset, said Crawford.
“It’s a mentality,” Crawford said. “When you come off the bench, you get a chance to watch a little bit, but you have to make something happen fast. As a starter, you can kind of feel your way through the game, see how things are going.”
The scoring punch that Crawford brings off the bench gives the Clippers an advantage they lacked last season, especially during the end stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. It was very evident last season that the Clippers needed that extra scorer to put them over the top and into the Western Conference Finals. The Clippers did not have it and got bounced out of the postseason by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.
That should not be a problem for the Clippers this season. Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Ryan Hollins should be able to fill that void without a hitch.
“A lot of these guys could be starting on any team in the NBA,” Blake Griffin said. “I don’t like to call them the second team because there is not much of a drop off when they come into the game.
“It is unbelievable how they come into games and they put the pressure on teams and increase the lead. We want to reward them for that any we don’t want anyone to think of them as the second team, because we are all on the same level. We are all one team.”
Crawford said the Clippers’ second unit is more than capable of filling in the gap for the starting five.
“One of our strengths is our bench, Crawford said. “A lot of teams, they can go one or two guys off the bench-max. But with us, we can go five deep, and have another two after that. We feel like we can give our starters some rest, maintain the lead and build on it when they have it. Everything we do is collectively, even though we have our own roles. The ultimate goal is to win.”