NBA PM: Crawford Excited for Offseason
Jamal Crawford will either be traded on draft night or opt out and become an unrestricted free agent. The Portland Trail Blazers extended the deadline for Crawford to opt out from June 15 to June 29, which gives them the opportunity to shop him on the night of the draft.
If the Blazers find a trade partner that Crawford deems suitable, he could opt in to the final year of his contract and be dealt to that team, making $5 million next season. If Portland can’t put together a trade, Crawford will opt out and test free agency.
If Crawford becomes a free agent, he’ll have plenty of potential suitors. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams expected to pursue Crawford, according to league sources.
Crawford is looking forward to the next several weeks, when he’ll find out what his future holds.
“I’m really excited,” Crawford said. “It’s funny how things work out. If it happens, it’ll pretty much be my first true free agency. The first time I signed a contract was a sign-and-trade so I didn’t really go through the whole process. Then, last year was a rushed free agency because of the lockout. If I go through it this year, that’ll be the first true free agency of my career, which is pretty weird. It’s an exciting time. Everything kicks off in a couple of weeks and we’ll see what happens.”
In the meantime, Crawford is in Seattle to host his annual pro-am, which will feature NBA players such as Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter. Crawford and Roy are close friends and they’ve spent time together in recent weeks. Crawford is confident that the former All-Star will make a successful NBA comeback next season.
“I think he will come back, for sure,” Crawford said of Roy. “He has the bug. With the way he’s training – and he’s looking really, really good – and everything he’s doing, it looks like it’s geared toward making a comeback. We talk about the game and he misses the game. He has a great mind for the game. At this point right now, he wouldn’t be a guy who would be your number one superstar player. I’m not sure if he would even want to. Brandon has no problem adjusting his game and doing whatever he sees fit. He would be great on a contending team, I think, because he could be the guy who gets them over the hump.”
Teaming up in the NBA has always been a dream for Crawford and Roy. When asked about the possibility of playing together the next season, Crawford admitted it’s something they’ve discussed.
“We’ve definitely kicked around some ideas and laughed about some things,” Crawford said with a laugh. “We’ll see what happens in July and how things move forward.”
For now, Crawford is training and keeping up with the NBA Finals, even if it’s tough for him to watch on several levels. Not only is it difficult for him to watch other players compete for a championship, it hasn’t been easy seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder experience success since leaving his hometown.
“It’s really tough,” Crawford said. “All of us are athletes at heart and we’ve played this game since we were kids. We’re all competitive. When your season doesn’t go the way you wanted it to and you’re watching two teams duke it out in June, you always want to be a part of it.”
“Me, being a Seattle guy, it would be tough for me to see the Thunder win,” Crawford admitted. “I know it’s not Oklahoma City’s fault, but it’s tough when I feel that the team could be in Seattle doing the same thing. I haven’t found many people [in Seattle] who are rooting for the Thunder. Even me, being in the NBA, it was tough when I saw that they were going to the Finals. I’m friends with Durant, Westbrook and Harden so it was nothing personal. It was just like, ‘Man, that team could’ve been here in Seattle going to the Finals.’ I always root for my city. There aren’t too many people here rooting for them.”
Last season, Crawford averaged 13.9 points and 3.2 assists in 60 games with the Portland Trail Blazers. He’s hoping to sign a multi-year deal this summer, preferably with a contending team so that he can compete in next year’s Finals rather than watching from home.
Listen to my complete interview with Jamal Crawford on ESPN 1040 in Tampa and ESPNFlorida.com.
Riley Doesn’t Miss Coaching: Don’t expect to see Pat Riley back on the sidelines anytime soon. Speaking to reporters prior to Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Riley made it very clear he’s had enough of coaching and doesn’t envision himself returning to the huddle.
“I don’t really miss it,” Riley said of coaching. “I feel it in the gut right now, like anybody else, but we have a very, very good young coach, who’s growing by leaps and bounds. I did 30 years. That’s enough.”
“It’s a different time,” Riley said. “I mean, I was the most blessed coach of all of them. I was. I had the greatest players with the Lakers. In New York, I had great players in Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Charles Oakley. Came down here with Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Caron Butler, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. I’ve been truly blessed. I don’t want to push myself and go back. I don’t really have that kind of desire.”
With that said, Riley made it clear he doesn’t have any plans to retire. The 67-year-old still has a lot he wants to accomplish as team president of the Miami HEAT.
“I’m looking to build this thing even better, and I don’t have any timeline,” Riley said. “I’ve still got a lot of bite left in my bark.”
Lillard Continues to Turn Heads: Executives continue to rave about Damian Lillard, who has likely solidified himself as a top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He has worked out for the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors in recent weeks, and he continues to impress the league’s decision-makers.
“I’ve worked out for Toronto, Portland, Sacramento and Golden State,” Lillard said. “I’m definitely on their radar. I’m one of the players that they’re considering. I had good workouts in all four places so now I’m really just waiting. I got really good feedback. They liked what I can do and what I can contribute to their team.”
Portland seems particularly interested in Lillard and they may draft him with the sixth overall pick.
“That’s definitely a team that’s on the radar,” Lillard said of the Blazers. “Right now, it’s really up in the air. Nothing is for sure, but the workout went really well. They liked me and I liked them. That’s all I can go off right now. I’m just waiting to see how it all plays out.”
Lillard believes he’s the best point guard in this draft class.
“I think the other point guards are good players, but I think my ability to knock down shots and what I can bring to a team right away separates me,” Lillard said. “I can make shots and every team can use shot-makers. Also, I think I have great playmaking ability. Coming in, I think people undervalued my ability to make plays for others because I had to score a lot of points at Weber State. I think I can make plays as well as any point guard in the draft and I think I’m the best scoring point guard in the draft, so I think I’m the top point guard in the draft.”
“I can see myself being what the point guard has turned into: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chauncey Billups and guys like that,” Lillard said. “They make the right play and get their teammates involved but, at the same time, they remain a threat throughout the game as far as scoring the ball.”
This time last year, Lillard was projected as a second-round pick, but he shot up draft boards after a spectacular junior season at Weber State, averaging 24.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4 assists.
“It’s been weird,” Lillard said of the last year. “I’m a laid-back, under-the-radar dude so it’s weird getting all of this attention and having all of these people know who I am. It’s different, but it’s good attention so I’ve been enjoying it. I guess it comes with the territory. I worked hard for it so I’m just enjoying it.”
Listen to my complete interview with Damian Lillard on ESPN 1040 in Tampa and ESPNFlorida.com.
NBA Chats: There is one NBA chat on the schedule today. Lang Greene will be hosting his weekly chat at 8 p.m. EST. Feel free to drop him a line on anything NBA related. You can always find our upcoming chats here.