Crawford Finds Home, Comfort Back With Clippers
LOS ANGELES – With 12 more appearances in the same uniform, Jamal Crawford will have played more regular season games with the Clippers than any other team in his 16-year career.
Seattle will always be Crawford’s first home, but Crawford made sure the city he’s felt for years was a second home also stayed his professional home as he officially re-signed in Los Angeles on a three-year deal with the Clippers.
“I’ve said it the whole time, I wanted to come back here,” Crawford said after making his signing official late last week.
Crawford had offers elsewhere, and it wasn’t always clear where he’d end up as the 36-year-old considered his free agent options in a market most NBA players wanted to be a part of with the salary cap rising. But, Crawford got the offer he was looking for with the Clippers, giving the three-time Sixth Man of the Year a sense of permanence and comfort with his sixth team since joining the league in 2000.
Since joining the Clippers in 2012, Crawford has averaged more than 14 points per game each of the past four seasons and earned two of his three Sixth Man of the Year honors. He said he wanted to return, and the Clippers did what it took to keep him.
Despite playing four years with the Bulls and more than four years with the Knicks, Crawford’s already played more games with the Clippers than anywhere else including his postseason appearances. In terms of regular season matchups, the Clippers will become Crawford’s most tenured team in November, assuming he’s on the court early this upcoming season.
“At the end of the season, you don’t have to move your stuff out,” Crawford said with a grin. “You know you’ll be here; you know you’re a part of the core. You’ve found a home, so to speak.”
That’s what most of the Clippers on the roster felt they found by the end of last season, which is why so many of the free agents tried to do what they could to stay, despite the Clippers’ tight cap situation. In the end, Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson and Luc Mbah a Moute all officially signed when the moratorium ended to stay with the Clippers.
While the Clippers’ core has remained intact for years, the backup group alongside Crawford has often been in flux. Crawford said keeping some consistency should help build the second unit’s chemistry – something Rivers also said he agreed with after deciding to return.
“I think me and Jamal progressively got better with each other,” Rivers said. “I think me and him will just continue to grow.”
Crawford said the unity throughout the team separated the Clippers from other places in the NBA – from the front office down to the locker room.
“That’s kind of unusual in this business,” Crawford said. “I’m not saying everything’s perfect or we don’t have our ups and downs or see things from different points of view; but overall, it’s a family.”
It’s easier for it to become that way when, after wins, players’ actual families can routinely be seen in the locker room at STAPLES Center. The players freely bring their kids in to celebrate and meet other players’ kids, and Crawford’s children are often a part of that mix. Many times, players’ kids become close friends.
Crawford said those types of aspects can’t be overlooked in terms of building camaraderie and a family-like atmosphere.
“My wife, we’ve been together 10 years now, but we’ve been in one place the longest here, so this is where she kind of knows from a team aspect,” Crawford said. “This is kind of like our home as well.”
And that home is getting bigger, as Crawford welcomed another daughter to the family a month ago. A smile crept over Crawford’s face as he described both how cool it was and how the nights have often been sleepless this summer, calling his wife the MVP of their household.
Crawford’s tried to spend as much time as he can with family this summer while also working out. His Pro-Am tournament in Seattle is now in full swing, and with his contract signed to stick in Los Angeles, he can finally get back on the court and play – something he’s been itching to do all summer, at least until the season winds back up.
Once that happens, there’s only one thought in his mind – one of the only things that’s eluded him as he continues to crawl up the all-time leaderboards entering his 17th NBA season.
“To win a championship,” Crawford said. “That’s it.”