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NBA@2: Crawford Believes Clippers Can Contend
Posted By Alex Kennedy On July 20, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Clippers have had an extremely busy offseason. After re-signing Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups to new deals, the Clippers added several veterans to the roster including Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Ryan Hollins.
With Chris Paul entering the final year of his contract, the team wants to win now and is making the necessary moves to become a contender. Crawford, who signed a four-year deal with the Clippers, believes Los Angeles can compete with the other elite teams in the Western Conference.
“For sure, there’s no question about it,” Crawford said when asked if the Clippers can contend. “We’re the perfect group of young guys and veterans who know how to win. We just have to keep everyone healthy. We all believe in what Coach Vinny Del Negro is doing and what the organization is doing. They’re showing that they’re not the Clippers of old. They’re going all-in, just look at the summer they just had. It’s been unbelievable and it keeps getting better each day.”
“This would have to be the most talented team I’ve played on,” Crawford added. “That’s no disrespect to any team I’ve played on in the past, but we’re ten deep, and we may even be deeper than that if our young kids get an opportunity and continue to develop. This is the deepest team I’ve been on, by far. These are guys who aren’t worried about anything but winning. That’s all it’s about.”
Crawford received interest from a number of teams including the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers before ultimately signing with the Clippers. He decided to join Los Angeles after receiving recruiting pitches from Paul, Griffin, Billups and Jordan.
“I’ve had relationships with a lot of those guys for awhile – Chauncey, DeAndre, Chris and Blake,” Crawford said. “Chris texted me a couple of times and called me. We talked about how good we could be together and how the team could move to the next level. Then, I talked to Coach Del Negro, Chauncey, DeAndre and Blake. When I went out there to visit, they made me feel like family. It felt like a home. I haven’t felt like this since I was in New York as far as the conversations I’m having with the team and knowing that I’m going to be there for a few years.”
With Paul, Crawford, Billups, Bledsoe and Hill, the Clippers may have one of the best backcourts in the league. While Crawford isn’t ready to crown them just yet, he is feeling confident about the rotation.
“We still have to play together and mesh so I wouldn’t say we’re the best yet, but I would say that you’d be hard pressed to find a backcourt that’s better,” Crawford said. “Let’s put it that way. We still have a lot to prove, but chemistry is everything and we’re already like a family.”
In the past, Crawford has had success as both a starter and a reserve. He’s carried the scoring load for some teams and led the second unit for others. He was the named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year during the 2009-10 season. In Los Angeles, Crawford is open to starting or coming off of the bench.
“I’m open to either,” Crawford said. “When you’re about winning, you’ll do whatever is asked of you. I see my role as being the scorer. They don’t want me to play point guard or anything like that. They have Eric Bledsoe. My job is just to score and make plays. On offense, I just need to attack. DeAndre, Chauncey and DeAndre were telling me that they were missing that last year.”
Crawford is respected around the league and his new teammates can’t wait to play with him.
“Jamal is going to be great, whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Jordan said. “He’s going to be a spark for us. He’s instant offense. He’s quick enough and he’s athletic enough to play some great defense, the way we play up and down. He’s going to fit our team perfectly. I just can’t wait to get into the gym with him.”
“Jamal, in my opinion, over the last seven, eight or nine years, is one of the elite players,” Billups said. “He’s been a thorn in every team that I’ve played for’s side.”
With free agency behind him and his future no longer up in the air, Crawford can’t wait for the season to start.
“I’m so excited,” Crawford said. “I’m working harder than I ever have. Throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of highs and lows. The last couple of years have really been crazy. Now that I have stability and I know what’s expected of me, I feel like the best is yet to come for myself and for this team. I’m excited about the opportunity going forward.”
Morris Making Strides in Las Vegas: The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the worst teams in the Las Vegas Summer League. They’ve lost four of their five games, including a 40-point loss to the Golden State Warriors and 50-point loss to the Miami HEAT. While the Lakers have been difficult to watch, one of the few bright spots on the team has been second-year point guard Darius Morris.
Morris, who was drafted with the 41st overall pick in last year’s draft, is playing in his first summer league since last year’s event was canceled due to the lockout. During the 2011-12 season, Morris played limited minutes so this has been an opportunity for him to develop and showcase his game.
Through five games, Morris has averaged 15.2 points, 4.2 assists and 3.6 assists. He had a 24-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs and a near triple double (11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds) against the Los Angeles Clippers. Even though the team hasn’t had much success, Morris is learning a lot from the experience and making the most of this opportunity.
“I’ve learned a lot from each game,” Morris told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve watched a lot of game film. It feels good to go out here and show people what you can do and also just try to get better. It’s a great opportunity. Your general manager is here, your owner is here and a lot of other teams are here too. You get a chance to impress and play meaningful five-on-five games. It’s just a great opportunity.”
As one of the few players on the Lakers’ summer league roster with a guaranteed deal, the coaching staff made it clear to Morris that they wanted him to have a big role in Las Vegas. They were going to put the ball in his hands and see what he could do. So far, he hasn’t disappointed.
“They want to see me lead the team,” Morris said. “I have to show that I can lead an NBA-caliber team, which I’m confident that I can do. Also, they want me to play defense, be aggressive on offense and keep trying to get better.”
The 21-year-old is benefiting from summer league play, but he can’t wait for the regular season to start. He’s excited to learn from Steve Nash, who was acquired by the Lakers in a sign-and-trade earlier this month. Morris has watched Nash since he was a child and he can’t wait to take notes from one of the best point guards in league history.
“I think it’s a blessing to have Steve Nash,” Morris said. “Especially as a point guard, being able to learn from him is great. Also, having Kobe (Bryant) on the wing still and being able to pick his brain, it’s a dream come true. It’s really a blessing. I was thanking God the other day.”
Morris is learning a lot in Las Vegas, and the lessons will only continue when he returns to Los Angeles.
One-On-One With Dion Waiters: After a meteoric rise in the weeks leading up the 2012 NBA Draft, Dion Waiters was selected fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and forever changed the way that prospects approach the workout process.
After receiving a promise from the Phoenix Suns, Waiters canceled all of his workouts. Rather than scaring teams off, this intrigued executives around the league. They wondered what they had missed, re-watched his game film and looked into his background to see what all of the buzz was about. By leaving the combine and becoming the mystery man, Waiters’ draft stock improved significantly and it quickly became clear that he wouldn’t slip to Phoenix at No. 13.
Now, Waiters is playing for the Cavaliers in the Las Vegas Summer League. Through three games, he’s averaging 12.3 points, three assists and three rebounds. HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis caught up with Waiters in Las Vegas:
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