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NBA PM: Jamal Crawford Thriving in L.A.
Posted By Alex Kennedy On November 29, 2012 @ 5:05 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is having arguably the best season of his career, leading the Clippers in scoring with 17.5 points per game without starting a single game. Crawford is not only the early favorite to win this season’s Sixth Man of the Year award, but he’s also being talked about as a potential All-Star. The 32-year-old has been one of the NBA’s biggest early-season surprises.
However, Crawford isn’t surprised at all.
Over the summer, after signing with the Clippers, he predicted that he’d have a career-year. Prior to the start of the season, Crawford described himself as “not young but not old” and insisted that his best basketball was ahead of him.
“People have been shocked for the most part, but I knew that I hadn’t lost a step or anything,” Crawford told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ll be the first to tell you when I’ve lost a step. I watch a lot of basketball and I play every single day so I’ll be the first to tell you when that happens. That wasn’t it at all. It was just that the last two years were tough. In Atlanta, I was going through the contract situation. In Portland, both sides knew that it was going to be kind of short-lived and the fit may not have been the best. I knew it wasn’t anything that was going on with me physically. I knew it was situational.”
Now, Crawford couldn’t be happier with his situation. He has grown very close with his new teammates and head coach Vinny Del Negro has given him plenty of freedom with the second unit.
As a result, Crawford has been extremely productive. He’s leading the league in fourth quarter scoring and his 19.04 Player Efficiency Rating is a career-high. Recently, teams have been double and triple teaming him, which is the ultimate sign of respect. Against the Atlanta Hawks, the team used a box-and-one defense to contain Crawford, which is unheard of against a reserve. However, even though he’s not starting for the Clippers, Crawford is still known as one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson described Crawford as someone who “doesn’t let a coach sleep well.”
“I’m very comfortable in this role,” Crawford said of being the Clippers’ sixth man. “It started in the summer. I didn’t like how things went last season; it just didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth. I’m getting back to being me. I’m playing with a group of really talented guys and playing for a coach that gives me a lot of freedom. I love playing for Coach Del Negro, his staff and this organization. It’s been a great fit. I’m just coming in and doing what I do.”
Crawford loves his teammates and even though the Clippers have a number of new faces on the roster, this is a very close-knit team with excellent chemistry.
“The team is really like a family,” Crawford said. “When everyone is really close off the court, it makes everything on the court easier, and we’ve had that since day one. We all came in early and then we had the trip to China, which gave everyone a chance to bond and build relationships. That’s helped us.
“We don’t have any guys who have individual agendas. We have a bunch of guys who understand that it’s very rare for a talented group like this to come together. You don’t see this often. I mean, we feel like we have two starting teams, maybe even more. That’s just very, very rare. Opportunities like this don’t come every day so we have to take advantage of it.”
In the past, making the playoffs was an accomplishment for the Clippers, but now the team has championship aspirations. Every player on the roster believes that this team can compete for a title and that has been the stated goal all season long.
“What is this team’s ceiling? Playing in late June,” Crawford said. “That’s the ceiling. That’s the goal for sure and everybody has bought into it. We know that we’ll be judged on what happens in the postseason. We understand that.
“It feels great and absolutely unreal. If you look at the wins that we’ve had, beating San Antonio twice, beating Miami, beating Memphis and all of these great teams, it’s like, ‘Wow, we really can compete with anybody.’ We feel like any given night, we can beat anybody. We like our chances every night. Now, getting a guy like Chauncey Billups back and getting Grant Hill back soon along with all of the guys that we already have in place, it’s unbelievable. If we make sure things mesh and keep working out our kinks and go through the process, I think we’ll keep getting better and better going forward.”
Crawford has been phenomenal this season and, if he can continue to play a high level, he may be selected to the Western Conference All-Star team, which would be his first All-Star appearance. While Crawford is flattered by the All-Star talk, he deflects all of the attention and praise.
“That would be unbelievable,” Crawford said. “Honestly, stuff like that, especially coming into the season, wasn’t even on my radar. I was focusing on getting my game back and winning on the highest level. If it happens, that would be a credit to my teammates and the organization.”
Crawford has bought in and is doing everything he can to help the Clippers compete for a championship this season. Both parties have benefited from the relationship, with Crawford enjoying a career-year and the Clippers fielding one of their most talented teams in franchise history. Crawford should continue to improve as he gets acclimated in L.A. and the Clippers should continue to improve as they gel and get to full strength. That may mean many sleepless nights for opposing players and coaches going forward.
Lopez Sidelined With Right Foot Sprain
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez missed all but five games last season after fracturing his fifth metatarsal in his right foot and undergoing surgery last December. This season, Lopez has returned to form and been a huge part of the Nets’ early success, leading the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game while also averaging 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
Now, however, Lopez’s right foot will sideline him once again.
The Nets announced that Lopez will miss the team’s next two games against the Orlando Magic and Miami HEAT. X-rays on Lopez’s foot were negative, but he sprained it during Brooklyn’s win against the Boston Celtics. He played just 17 minutes against Boston and sat out for nearly the entire fourth quarter due to the injury.
The Nets don’t appear too concerned, but it’s never good for a 265-pound center to have recurring foot injuries. Lopez’s injury lowered his trade value in talks with the Orlando Magic last summer and led some to question why the Nets decided to give him a four-year, $60 million max deal.
Hopefully Lopez will only miss two games and then be able to return to the starting lineup. Otherwise, the Nets may be in trouble. Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche are serviceable reserves, but they are a significant drop off from Lopez, especially with the way he’s playing in the early stages of this season.
Mavericks Sign Fisher, Waive Murphy
The Dallas Mavericks have officially signed Derek Fisher and waived Troy Murphy, the team announced. On Wednesday, Rick Carlisle told reporters about the move and hinted Fisher may be the Mavericks’ starting point guard rather than Darren Collison, who was acquired by Dallas over the offseason.
Carlisle made it clear that the 38-year-old Fisher is being brought in to mentor the 25-year-old Collison. However, it’s unclear if he’ll be the team’s starter or if he’ll provide guidance as a reserve, as he did last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder during the team’s deep postseason run.
Fisher hasn’t been a regular starter since the beginning of last season, when he started the 43 games of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Over the course of his 16-year NBA career, Fisher has averaged 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 26.2 minutes per game.
Collison missed Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained finger on his shooting hand, but he has struggled with consistency for much of the season in Dallas. The Mavericks are hoping that Fisher can help Collison mature and further his development.
Fisher was originally the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Lakers. He won five championships in Los Angeles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010) and served as president of the NBA Players Association from 2006 to 2012. Fisher brings plenty of postseason experience to Dallas after appearing in 229 playoff games throughout his career.
Fisher will replace Murphy on the Mavericks’ 15-man roster. Murphy was waived after playing in 14 games for Dallas and averaging 4.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 18.3 minutes.
Suns Assign Marshall to D-League
When the Phoenix Suns selected Kendall Marshall with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the former North Carolina Tar Heel seemed poised to start and fill the void left by Steve Nash’s departure. However, shortly after drafting Marshall, the Suns signed Goran Dragic to a four-year deal worth $34 million and it became clear that he would be the team’s point guard of the future.
This season, Marshall has played just 34 minutes and appeared in six games. Marshall has been the odd man out, playing behind Dragic as well as eight-year veteran Sebastian Telfair.
Now, in an effort to give Marshall the playing time he needs to continue his development, the Suns have assigned him to the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League, the team announced today.
Former NBA point guard Lindsey Hunter, who is now the Suns Player Development Coordinator, will accompany Marshall to Bakersfield. Marshall will be playing alongside Damion James, who is one of the best players in the D-League. The 21-year-old will likely make his D-League debut on Monday against Santa Cruz.
NBRPA and NBA Extend Partnership
The National Basketball Retired Players Association, which is comprised of over 600 NBA, ABA and Harlem Globetrotters alumni, announced a four-year extension to its 20-year partnership with the NBA. The NBRPA’s goal is to help players transition into life after basketball. The NBRPA and NBA enhanced their partnership and the league will now provide direct financial support for the NBRPA’s projects.
“On behalf of the NBRPA’s Board of Directors and membership, I would like to thank Commissioner David Stern and the NBA for their support – a philanthropic organization like ours would not exist without their two decades of support,” said former NBA All-Star and current NBRPA Vice Chairman Otis Birdsong. “The financial support of the NBA helps fund programs that assist in our members’ transition into life after the game. This enhanced partnership with the NBA will allow us to educate and assist more former players than ever before while creating direct revenue opportunities for NBRPA members.”
“We are proud to extend our extraordinary 20-year partnership with the NBRPA and support its tireless efforts to assist former players in life following their playing career,” said Charles Rosenzweig, NBA Senior Vice President of Entertainment and Player Marketing.
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