Dime stopped by the Seattle Pro-Am this weekend and sat down with the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford. A Seattle native, Crawford has been the face of the Pacific Northwest’s premier summer league event, which features NBA stars and local high school and college players.
Crawford is one of our favorite interviews here at Dime, and this weekend he dished on a number of topics such as the ongoing Donald Sterling saga, his top five basketball movies of all time, the origin of his patented shake-n-bake, coming off the bench, his fear of flying, and much more.
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Dime: What does the Pro-Am mean to the people of Seattle after losing the Sonics? Does it help fill the void?
Jamal Crawford: I remember when I was sixteen years old, and I was playing in Doug Christie’s Pro-Am, and I was one of those high school kids that got an opportunity to play. My first couple of games, I didn’t do so well, but I finally got the hang of it, started playing a lot better, and my confidence grew knowing I could play good against pro players, and guys who were older than me. When I got back to high school, it would be easier. It helped me, and I never forgot it, and Doug, when he got older and further into his career, he was like I want you to take it over. It was kind of a natural progression since I was already a part of it. Now, I think, the league is more important that we don’t have the Sonics anymore. Seeing all these pro players – me, Zach LaVine, Isaiah [Thomas], Blake Griffin – you know, guys they wouldn’t normally see. Seeing these guys up close and personal, Blake and Kevin Durant and Kobe, it speaks volumes to them.
Dime: As the Donald Sterling saga drags on, Doc Rivers, Blake, and Chris Paul have all said that they would boycott if he’s still owner at the beginning of the season. Is that a consensus you all came to as a team?
JC: Yeah, we actually talked about it when it first came up. We felt like, at that time, we had worked so hard to get to where we were, you know. We’re not playing for him. We’re playing for each other and for our families and for the city of Los Angeles, so we decided to play. Obviously, it was a distraction, but we tried to manage it the best we could.
Dime: What was the mood like in the locker-room after the scandal broke?
JC: It was crazy. We had just had a film session. You know, we’re supposed to be worried about Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. It’s like, if you want to be a better shooter, you can work on your jumper, or ball-handling, whatever it may be. There’s not a manuscript for dealing with something like this. You kind of learn on the fly, and I think that Doc did a masterful job of helping us through it.
Dime: You’re someone who’s relatively active on Twitter, and a lot of NBA players in general are really into social media. Why do you think Vine and Instagram, etc. are so popular?
JC: I didn’t understand it, honestly, at the beginning. You know, nobody wants to know what I had for dinner. But there’s some people that I’ll never get a chance to meet, fans of myself and fans of my teammates who are active on Twitter. Twitter, for me, is truly for them. I wouldn’t have Twitter if it wasn’t for them. I’m not that important, but being able to interact with somebody that’s in Paris or in Idaho or wherever, I may never get a chance to meet them, so it’s really cool.
— Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) July 10, 2014
Dime: A few players have received a lot of backlash – J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, etc. – for things they’ve said or done on Twitter that may have been inappropriate or off-color in some way. What’s your rule of thumb when it comes to keeping it cool?
JC: For me, I think you just have to take an extra second. I can’t speak for none of those other guys. It’s their Twitter, so they can say whatever they want. That’s the cool thing about Twitter, but for me, I always want to be positive. I always try to take an extra second to think about it because I don’t wanna have to delete or erase anything, so I try to take my time and think it through a little bit.
Dime: You obviously have one of the best handles in the league, but who do you think besides yourself has the best handle?
JC: Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Tyreke Evans, those guys are some of the names that jump out at me.
Dime: What advice do you have for young kids watching you here today to improve their ball-handling skills?
JC: Me personally, I just kept the ball with me at all times. It wasn’t about doing cone work and drills like that. I think that’s why my handle is a little bit different. I usually try to do things off the top of my head instead of dribbling around cones. You’re playing against top players who are extremely athletic, and they’re not just gonna stand there and watch you.
Dime: You’ve said before that you never really practice your moves. Is a game like this an opportunity to just kind of try things out and see what happens?
JC: Definitely. Like I said, I just try to use my instincts. I try to counter whatever the defense is doing. Even the best defensive player in the world is gonna struggle if a guy is really good offensively, so I just try to read the different situations and react as quickly as I can.
Dime: Can you talk about the origin of your patented Shake-n-Bake move?
JC: I made it up in this league. It was actually during the All-Star game, like today. I made it up on accident, so I went back and I was like, so what did I do? And I was able to break it down. There’s actually an extended version of that move that I’m gonna have to break out at some point. But you’ll see it again. I’ll do it once a year.
Dime: Congratulations on winning the Sixth Man of the Year award again this season. A lot of players of your caliber wouldn’t be comfortable coming off the bench. What kind of mindset do you have to have as a sixth man?
JC: For me, I understand that you can’t win with just one or two guys. You look at all the really good teams, they have that third guy coming off the bench, whether it’s [Manu] Ginobili in San Antonio or James Harden when he was with OKC. Think about it, James Harden went from Sixth Man to a franchise player. I understand that winning is more important than anything and keeping my team balanced, and hopefully, kids realize they don’t have to start to have an impact on the game.
Dime: What are some qualities you need to be a good Sixth Man off the bench?
JC: I think you have to put winning first. If you put winning first, and you understand what you’re role is, that you have an important role, and you try to bring it every night.
Dime: What do the Clippers need to do to get over the hump next season and take the West?
JC: I think we were right there this year. I think we had our chances. It’s such a fine line when you get to the playoffs. It’s about matchups, and you need a little bit of luck, and you need to be healthy. I think that we’re in good shape. It’ll be another year under Doc, and we understand what he expects from his system. If we keep guys healthy, I think the sky’s the limit for us.
Dime: What does Spencer Hawes bring to the Clippers this year?
JC: He stretches the floor. Obviously, a big guy who can shoot like that is different than Lob City with DeAndre [Jordan]. It gives us a different dimension. He’s a guy who’s very unselfish. He makes great plays, passes. He’s a guy I think everybody will respect.
Dime: What team or player is a must-watch for you on League Pass?
JC: Kevin Durant, LeBron. I love Derrick Rose. I especially like Isaiah Thomas, and B-Roy [Brandon Roy] when he was playing. I’m never gonna miss one of Zach’s games. The guys that I grew up with and had around, I never miss their games.
Dime: What are your top five basketball movies?
JC: He Got Game, Above the Rim, Blue Chips, Hoop Dreams…is there one I missed?
D: White Men Can’t Jump?
JC: Ah, man. Yeah. White Men Can’t Jump.
Dime: NBA Summer League just wrapped up. There are a bunch of new guys coming into the league like Zach. As a veteran, what advice do you have for those guys?
JC: Sometimes, experience is the best teacher. Obviously, we all went through the transition playing college ball and high school ball, but the thing about the NBA is, there’s no nights off. You have to be ready every single night. One night you can go against a guy like Kobe who everybody knows, or you can go against a guy like Monta Ellis who can get 30 on you. He’s not as known as Kobe, but he has game as well. So I think just being ready every single night, being on guard, knowing that you’re playing against the best players in the world every single night. I think that’s very important.
Dime: What’s your favorite city to travel to when you’re on the road?
JC: On the road? I would say New York or Miami. There’s nothing like playing in the Garden [Madison Square Garden]. You got some of your favorite entertainers sitting right on the sidelines. I think that’s really cool.
Dime: You made a brief appearance in one of the Professor’s Spiderman videos. Are we gonna see more of that?
JC: You might see more of it.
Dime: What do you think about the Professor’s handles?
JC: Oh, his handle’s silly.
Dime: What’s playing in your headphones these days?
JC: I listen to everything. I listen to a lot of 90s rap. BIGGIE. Reasonable Doubt. Tupac. A lot of that. I listen to a lot of Wale. Kendrick Lamar.
Dime: If you weren’t a basketball player, what would you be doing instead?
JC: An architect.
Dime: You’re on death row. What’s your last meal?
JC: Ah, man. Soul food. Chicken, macaroni cheese, greens, peach cobbler. I’m good.
Dime: Guilty pleasure?
JC: Sweets. Skittles. Something flavorful.
Dime: What’s something about you most people don’t know?
JC: I hate flying.
Dime: It’s hard to get around that being in the NBA. How do you handle it?
JC: I have no choice.