For years, we’ve watched Jamal Crawford with our jaws dropped following his usual brilliance with a basketball. Then we waited, agog, for his next incredible offensive display because they usually came in bunches. Just as often, we heard from people around the NBA that we were unlikely to speak with a more intelligent, thought-provoking, but — more importantly — also the most genuine guy in all of the NBA. After chatting with Crawford on Tuesday before their matchup tonight against the Thunder, we can say that Crawford’s kindness, team-first attitude and nimble basketball mind made our 30 minute conversation one of the most enjoyable we’ve ever had.
Maybe it’s that Crawford is from the Northwest, and after talking with Isaiah Thomas — one of Crawford’s good friends — last month, we can’t help but be struck by how selfless they were whenever individual accolades were brought into our line of questioning. That’s not to say they’re missing an ego, every NBA player needs to have an augmented level of self-confidence, but they both possess an authenticity ahd humility that’s rare in this day of personal branding.
The Clippers are currently in a race with the Thunder for the 2-seed in the West, and Crawford’s health, his ability to light it up off the bench, a new-found stake in his ability to defend, not to mention the presence of championship-winning coach Doc Rivers, were just some of the subjects broached.
Crawford grew up in Seattle, leading Rainier Beach High School to a state championship before going on to Michigan where he starred for the Wolverines during a lone freshman season. He ended up foregoing his sophomore year — like so many one-and-done players today — to enter the 2000 NBA Draft. We discussed his love for his hometown and the issues on both sides of the NBA’s current debate about raising the NBA’s age minimum from 19 to 20 years old.
There aren’t many NBA players like Crawford who bring such insight on an eclectic range of topics. The next time you see Crawford cross a defender up and dash to the rim for a twisting layup, remember there’s a really astute, decent guy behind the off-the-charts basketball ability. The Basketball Gods smiled when Jamal Crawford came into being.
Dime: So which muscle group is hurting you right now? We saw reports it was the calf, and others saying it was the left Achilles’ Tendon?
Jamal Crawford: Yeah, it’s the calf, but it’s doing a lot better. Like if there’s a playoff game coming up, I could probably give it a go. Just want to be safe and cautious since the playoffs are actually coming up. I want to be as hundred percent as possible.
Dime: Do you envision playing a couple regular season games just to get back into the flow?
JC: Yeah, for sure. No question about it.
Dime: Doc [Rivers] had said maybe you weren’t going to be ready to go before the playoffs started, but it sounds like you’re feeling a lot better?
JC: Nah, I’m feeling a lot better. I’m optimistic, I get a game or two in before the playoffs start. I would hate to just come right into the playoffs after missing games. I want to be able to keep that rhythm and that chemistry with the guys.
Dime: That’s a tricky area, considering how explosive you are off the dribble. Is that a concern, like exacerbating it if you played.
JC: Yeah, especially the way I play. Like you said, I do a lot of stuff off the dribble, cutting and things of that nature. You’re always pushing off; loading up your toes and loading up your foot and pushing off your calf. That’s the only tricky thing about it. It’s a whole lot better. As days go by, I continue to get stronger and continue to be in pretty good shape at the close of the season.
Dime: You guys have been playing really well this season. A lot of people attribute that to Doc. What’s the biggest difference between this year and last season — your first in LA?
JC: I would agree with that. I think if you look at it, I’ve had a pretty good season. I think Chris [Paul] had another stellar season, Blake [Griffin’s] been playing at the MVP level. DeAndre Jordan has basically had the Defensive Player of the Year-type season, and Most Improved. I think that’s been great. [Darren] Collison has played great. J.J. Redick is there and everybody’s played great. But Doc has truly been the MVP of our team. I think getting everybody to buy in from day 1. It’s coming from a guy — and that’s no disrespect to anybody else, because I was a big Vinny Del Negro guy — but it’s more Doc. To actually accomplish, and reach that mountain top of him being confident. Winning a championship then going back to the Championship [2008, 2010 with the Celtics]. If you want to be a championship-level you kind of have to have a championship-level coach. Someone that’s actually won it, or been there. You know he’s done both, so we’ve all bought in, and he’s been the true MVP of this season.