If Mugatu went to any of the first three Los Angeles Clippers games this season, there’s a good chance he’d have said, “that Jamal Crawford is so hot right now” at least once.
And with good reason.
He’s the team’s leading scorer (77 points through his first three games).
And maybe most importantly, he’s noticeably and admittedly confident.
Crawford told reporters after the Clippers’ Halloween night win over the Memphis Grizzlies that mentally, he, “hasn’t felt like this since New York.”
Crawford played with the Knicks from 2004 to 2008, and had his best year in 07-08 where he averaged 20.6 points and 5.0 assists per game.
Since the Knicks packaged him in a trade to land Al Harrington early in the 2008-09 season (the same trade that would land Zach Randolph with the Clippers… and possibly save Cuttino Mobley’s life), Crawford went on to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award a year later with the Atlanta Hawks and become one of the NBA’s most lethal scorers coming off the bench.
After a down year in Portland by his career standards, Crawford certainly found a home in Los Angeles this past summer. If he can continue to carry that New York confidence into his games in Los Angeles, the Clippers will assuredly have a big spot in the “best bench in the league” conversation around water coolers nationwide.
That is quite a step up for the Clippers, who were so heavily reliant on their starters to score the team’s points just a year ago (ranking 3rd in the league in points from starters with 72.2 points per game). Conversely, the Clippers’ bench was, to put it politely, atrocious in terms of scoring the basketball, getting only 25.3 points per game from guys off the bench (good enough for 26th out of 30 league-wide).
Crawford is averaging more than that all by himself through the first three games (25.7 points per game).
Granted the sample size is incredibly small, Crawford’s play through the first trio of games shows that he is as primed as anyone for a bounce-back year.
After posting his lowest scoring total (13.8 points per game), field goal percentage (38.4%) and 3-point percentage (30.8%) in roughly a decade, Crawford seems revitalized and rejuvenated in a Clippers uniform.
He was upfront and honest in acknowledging that playing on one-year contracts over the previous two seasons was difficult. However, as soon as free agency started, Crawford knew that he was wanted. Plenty of the Clippers’ core players (Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan) reached out to Crawford to persuade him into joining forces in Los Angeles.
He told reporters, “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.”
Investing long-term in a guy coming off his worst year as a full-time pro was a risky play, but early indications are showing that the Clippers’ decision to give Jamal Crawford a four-year, full mid-level exception was a wise move.
The Clippers reached the Western Conference semifinals a year ago with one of the league’s worst benches… so how far can they go with possibly one of the most potent benches in the NBA?
Mugatu knows how good the Clippers’ bench can be… and you should too.
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