Jamal Crawford, 36, thrives for Clippers with love for the game

first_imgJamal Crawford is 36. He looks 26 when he’s making moves that fake opponents into Chick Hearn’s popcorn machine.“I thank God for the way my body is built,” said the Clippers guard, regarded as one of the top sixth men in the NBA. “I think it’s just taking care of myself, the way I live. I think all those things play a part, and just being in love with the game.”The Clippers have been in love with what Crawford has done in his 16th NBA season, the past four with the Clippers. He averaged 14.2 points, led the team in scoring 13 times and averaged 15.8 points from Dec. 25 through the end of the regular season, most among all players with three or fewer starts.It was Christmas Day when coach Doc Rivers spoke to Crawford before their game with the Lakers. The bench — with new parts that included the since-departed Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson — was not working well. Crawford, a humble yet confident sort, agreed with his coach.“Honestly, I think it’s one of my better years when you look at it, like the full body of work,” he said.His teammates sing his praises.“Jamal had an unbelievable year,” point guard Chris Paul said.Shooting guard J.J. Redick said it even better.“Yeah, I mean, I’m hoping I can still walk at 36,” said Redick, 31. “He’s out there playing 30 minutes a game and getting shots up. It is impressive, his longevity, especially given how much he plays during the summer. It’s an every-day, year-round thing for him. He loves the game.”Crawford can be a killer to an opponent. Whether it’s one big clutch shot — such as his 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left that beat Utah on the road April 8 — or a string of them off the bench to ignite his team, Crawford is a money player.Portland coach Terry Stotts can hardly believe what Crawford still does.“It’s remarkable because he’s still an elite scorer, he basically beat us last game,” Stotts said. “He doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at all and you forget he’s 36. He’s got a live body, makes clutch shots and wins games for them.”Stotts was speaking of the Clippers’ 96-94 victory over his team March 24 at Staples Center. Redick made the game-winning shot at the buzzer, but Crawford scored 25 points, with 12 in the fourth quarter. His 29-foot 3-pointer with 11 seconds left tied the game at 94.Crawford missed 17 of the team’s final 21 games in 2015 because of a calf injury. That figured to hurt him in the playoffs, and it did. He’s all good for this postseason, though.“I had no touch, no rhythm,” he said. “The games were kind of like that. I’m really, really looking forward to being healthy (for these playoffs).”How much longer will he play? Even Crawford doesn’t know.“As long as I can,” he said. “Why put a limit on it? I think when I stop enjoying it. But I love it more than I did when I was a kid, at this point.”He was smiling, like the cold-blooded assassin he is on the floor.SCHEDULEApril 17: Clippers 115, Trail Blazers 95April 20: Portland at Clippers, 7:30 p.m., TNTApril 23: Clippers at Portland, 7:30 p.m., ESPNApril 25: Clippers at Portland, 7:30 p.m., TNT*April 27: Portland at Clippers, TBD*April 29: Clippers at Portland, TBD*May 1: Portland at Clippers, TBD*If necessary Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img “I figured I would take a step back with much more talent and kind of let those guys play and then go from there,” said Crawford, who scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the Clippers’ 115-95 victory over Portland on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.“But we got off to a rough start until Christmas and Doc pulled me aside Christmas night, and this was before the Blake (Griffin) stuff, and said, ‘I want you to be more aggressive.’ I was, ‘All right.’ So then from that point on, we kind of found our way.”Griffin sustained a partially torn left quad tendon Christmas night. That, a fractured right hand and four-game suspension caused him to miss the next 45 games. That meant Crawford had to help pick up some of the slack. He did.Interestingly, Crawford was coming off a 2015 postseason in which he struggled. He averaged 12.7 points, but shot just 36 percent overall, 24.3 percent from 3-point range. Rivers wasn’t concerned, though, ahead of this season.“He didn’t have a great playoffs last year, but he had a great regular season,” Rivers said. “So you knew he still had it, you knew he could win games for you and I think he’s gotten better this year. I think he’s had a better year this year than last year for us and I expect him to carry that through in the playoffs.”last_img

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