It took until Jamal Crawford’s tenth NBA season for the scoring guard to make the playoffs, and even that initiation was uneventful. Playing for two seasons on an anonymous Atlanta Hawks team in 2010 and 2011, Crawford shot well under 40 percent in 23 playoff games we hope you don’t remember. It’s possible that you don’t even remember Crawford’s turn on the Hawks, as his time in Atlanta was just another stop in a career that has seen the product of the Pacific Northwest play for six NBA teams, most of them terrible.
He was the frontman for a Chicago Bulls team that thought it wanted to rebuild around Elton Brand, before deciding to abandon that and center its hopes around Eddy Curry. He was the scorer for a Knicks team that thought it wanted to rebuild around Stephon Marbury, before abandoning that and centering itself around Eddy Curry. He dipped down into Golden State, hit his relative high point in Atlanta, and dabbled unremarkably with the Portland Trail Blazers last season.
Now, he’s working with the Los Angeles Clippers. The, we should point out, “team with the best record in the NBA”-Los Angeles Clippers. And because NBA patterns have a strange way of disrupting after a while, a national TV crowd got to see this late on Christmas Day:
It was two of Crawford’s 21 points, a nice night for the vaunted Clipper bench in a dominant win over the Denver Nuggets.
It was also a throwback night, of sorts. Not just with the Chicago-era crossover, but for Jamal’s statline. He needed 21 shots to get those 22 points, which isn’t exactly sterling efficiency. That sort of misstep hasn’t been typical of Crawford’s season with the Clippers, though, as the 32-year old is putting together his best season in years.
The 16.5 points per game don’t tip that off, per-game stats have never told the whole story about Jamal because he’s either been allowed to chuck wildly with terrible teams, or has been asked to come off the bench. It’s about his 43 percent mark from the field, great for a guard that takes the sort of shots he does, and tiny turnover rate. That he can carry the Clipper offense with his unorthodox scoring methods, and not purely look to spot up from long range or put his head down to drive every time. Crawford isn’t scintillating in the all-around sense as Eric Bledsoe has been this year, Bledsoe has out-paced him, but Jamal is working expertly for the Clippers this season.
Oh, forgot. For “the team with the best record in the NBA.”
Not to demean Crawford’s accomplishments, we’ve been fans of him personally since he entered the NBA, but it’s hard to think of one point in his NBA career where we’d guess that at age 32 he’d have a significant role on a group with the NBA’s top mark after 28 contests. The way he’s always gone about cobbling together his contributions just seemed to preclude us from believing in that notion.
Crawford’s earned it, though, after racking up all those losses. The Clippers are a hard sell sometimes, as they feature perhaps the worst owner and/or person in the NBA watching from the sideline, but the presence of Jamal Crawford makes this whole experience go down a lot easier.