Our friend Matt Moore of CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog isn't wrong when he says that this play looks worse than it is for Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay. He doesn't get crossed out of his shoes, he doesn't get AND1-level embarrassed and his failure in this moment isn't due to a lack of focus, intensity or athletic ability.
That said, this video clip still features Gay looking sort of helpless and falling to the ground because, no matter what messages his brain was sending, his legs just sort of didn't seem up to the task of staying with new-look Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford as he slithered his way around a high screen during the fourth quarter of a tie game on Wednesday night. At its base, that's what happened, and that — in combination with the sinister elbow floater that Crawford tacked on at the end to give his Clips a two-point lead in a nip-and-tuck final frame — is just plain nasty.
The stop-and-go move was just one of many elements of Crawford's opening-night performance that impressed new teammate DeAndre Jordan, but as the center told NBA.com's Eric Patten, it didn't really surprise him:
"I've seen [Jamal] do stuff that I've only seen on video games," said Jordan, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. "It's crazy because he does it effortlessly."
There was quite a bit of seemingly effortless explosion in Crawford's L.A. debut, which saw him hit 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts and act as an offensive game-changer in his 30 minutes off the Clipper bench. Twelve of Crawford's game-high 29 points came in the fourth quarter, including five in a 90-second stretch that pushed L.A.'s lead from three to eight and put the Grizzlies out of reach, salting away a 101-92 opening-night win.
The 13th-year veteran is no stranger to coming off the bench — of his 813 NBA appearances, just 399 have seen him on the floor to start the game, and he won the league's Sixth Man of the Year Award for his stellar work with the Atlanta Hawks' second unit during the 2009-10 season. But with last year's opening-night starter, Chauncey Billups, still working his way back from a torn left Achilles tendon, and his replacement, Randy Foye, now plying his trade with the Utah Jazz, some expected Crawford to slide in alongside All-Star point guard Chris Paul in the starting lineup (especially after signing a four-year, $21.4 million deal this summer).
Instead, fellow offseason import Willie Green got the start and offered a sound and steady 29 minutes (seven points, 2 for 2 from 3-point range, four rebounds, one block, +21), while Crawford served as the closer. While role definition will likely remain an evolving issue for the Clippers' new additions, Crawford told Joe Resnick of the Associated Press that he's feeling more comfortable than he has in years:
''It's like night and day from last year, honestly,'' Crawford said. ''I haven't felt like this since I was with the Knicks, mentally. I feel like I've found a home. The last few years I've basically played on one-year contracts. And that's always tough. Some of the guys here called me and told me I was their number one option in free agency at the guard position. And when you feel wanted like that and see where the team is going and how you can fit it, it's very cool.''
We're willing to bet that Gay — who, shakedown aside, had a nice night, leading Memphis with 25 points on 11-for-21 shooting and adding seven rebounds, three assists and two steals — would've preferred it be a bit less cool, and that Crawford find himself a bit less comfortable. He'll get his chance to negatively affect both at the FedEx Forum in Memphis on Jan. 14, 2013, when these two teams meet in their second of four regular-season square-offs.
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