Crawford gives Clippers bench depth
Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference.
Like a masseuse, or a chiropractor. As soon as Jamal Crawford heard that the Clippers keep them on hand for their players, he was in.
"All you have to do is go out there and play as hard as you possibly can," Crawford said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. "If you can't do that with everything that's being taken care of, something's wrong. I like our chances. I feel good about where we're at."
The Clippers officially added Crawford to their roster by signing him to a mid-level exception deal of four years for a reported $21.7 million. Crawford, 32, had opted out of his $5.2-million with the Port Trail Blazers to become a free agent.
He was swayed by more than just amenities, however. Crawford, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2009-2010 with the Atlanta Hawks, said the direction the organization is taking after its playoff run last season was an important factor. The Clippers so far have traded for forward Lamar Odom and re-signed guard Chauncey Billups, who is coming off an Achilles tendon injury. Crawford and Billups are close friends and have the same agent.
The Clippers also firmed up their future by signing power forward Blake Griffin to a five-year extension that could earned him as much as $95 million. Griffin, recently named to the US Olympic men's team, sustained a knee injury during practice Wednesday night in Las Vegas and is returning to Los Angeles to be evaluated.
"When you think of the Clippers now, you don't think of the Clippers 12 years ago when I first came into the league," Crawford said. "It's a totally different feel, a different vibe, and I think that energy is contagious. I think the city of LA and across the West Coast and the country are taking notice. I definitely want to be part of what's going on."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said he expects Crawford to strengthen the team's bench, which ranked 26th in scoring last season. Crawford is also an 85-percent career shooter at the free-throw line (93 percent last season); the Clippers ranked 29th in the league at 68 percent.
"We want that depth off the bench, and Jamal will be able to do that," Del Negro said. "We'll see where Chauncey is coming off his injury as the summer goes on and the fall steps in and training camp (starts). But Jamal can start or come off the bench. It's about getting him consistent minutes."
Crawford was a starter with the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors before he transitioned to a bench player with the Hawks in 2009. He averaged almost 20 points a game in two seasons with the Warriors and scored 18 a game in his first season in Atlanta.
"I haven't felt this rejuvenated since then, with something to prove," he said. "I feel really good either way. I can start the game, I can finish the game, I can come off the bench. I think it's no problem as long as your role is clearly defined and you know what's expected of you. I have no problem doing either one. I'm comfortable doing either one."
He said he and the Clippers are "a perfect fit," and that visiting the team last week "felt like family." The Clippers clearly agreed. They had a meeting scheduled with Ray Allen but cancelled it after it appeared they might be able to sign Crawford.
It turned out their interest was mutual.
"In this business, you meet a lot of people who will tell you what you want to hear," Crawford said. "You take it at face value. But these guys were so genuine in everything they were saying, and I felt it. They were straight shooters about everything, whether good or bad, and I respect that.
"I watched them from afar for the last couple of years and the moves they've been making, how coach Del Negro has them playing, how CP (Chris Paul) and Blake are definitely stepping up as superstar players, how the organization and ownership is doing everything in their power to win and win now. You want to be a part of a franchise like that."