“I haven’t had this much fun since high school.”- Jamal Crawford on playing with the LA Clippers.
I love watching Jamal Crawford play. I’m a Blake Griffin fan for life. I think Chris Paul is the best offensive point guard there is in the NBA. So maybe I’m a little biased when it comes to me judging Jamal Crawford. But I’ll have you know I was a fan long before he became a Clipper, I just didn’t care about his game as much, as he was usually hurting my team.
Now the stars have so aligned that I can finally root for him. Actually, that’s kind of how I like to picture Don Sterling and Vinny Del Negro making their trades, whacking each other upside the head and while the stars are circling their heads, they observe patters in the constellations and decide which player to trade for.
Close your eyes and picture that for a minute. The two of them playing whack-a-mole with each other’s heads and coming up with ideas. That almost sounds plausible when you consider the horrendous ineptitude of which those two are accused of. Luckily, the law of averages finally decided to right the balance in one fell swoop for the forever accursed Clippers franchise and landed them with a lip smacking roster which seems hand-picked to do one thing – win. And the biggest offensive reason for that is Jamal Crawford.
If I had to bring up one stat about Crawford, I’d go with his four-point plays. Jamal Crawford is the NBA’s all time leader in 4 point plays, 35 and counting. Of all the statistics to indicate one’s propensity to make bad shots, a four-point play has to be at the top of the list.
A contested three point shot is a long shot to begin with, consider that the shooter is getting fouled at the time and the degree of difficulty sky-rockets even higher. Perhaps there’s no other stat which reflects how many bad shots Crawford takes and makes more than those four-point plays which he converts with infuriating consistency.
Let’s try a word association test. Jamal Crawford. What comes to mind? Shake and bake. That’s the name given to his signature move
Watching him play, you can be mistaken for thinking that shake and bake is about something else. Something more poetic than a simple lay-up. Shake and bake is his entire philosophy of offense. There are few players in the league who thrive on controlled chaos more than Jamal Crawford. His chaos is about shaking and baking.
He does it by cradling the ball left, then right, then left again. Sometimes it starts from the right. He’s an unpredictable chap. He just dribbles around in a seemingly random pattern and when you lest expect it, he launches that high arcing rainbow jumper which hits all net quite often.
One reason why Crawford thrives is because he has the license to go wild. Few other guards in the league are allowed to shoot with such abandon. He is not as big a gunner as Kobe is, and here’s where the controlled chaos comes into play. He picks his spots, and quite often, it’s at the top of the key when the offense can’t get anything going.
“I want Jamal to be Jamal,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Jamal is a scorer and we have to get him shots and he’s going to make shots for us and make big plays because he’s very difficult to cover.”
Crawford was coming off his worst season in a decade with the Portland Trailblazers, where he averaged only 13.6 points off the bench. This season he’s averaging 16.5 points, 2.6 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game, in only 29.1 minutes per game.
For context, Mo Williams made the All-Star team when he averaged 17 points per game. Last season, the Clippers bench ranked 26th in the league in scoring. This season, the Clipper bench is averaging 41.9 points per game, almost 15 more than last season. And 16.5 of those 15 are coming from Jamal Crawford.
Little know fact, is that of the active players, only LeBron, Kobe and Jamal have scored 50 points three different times. Crawford is the only one of those to do so with three different teams. Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone and Bernard King were the only three others who did it with three different teams.
“He has a knack to score, any kind of shot. He can shoot tricky layups, five feet behind the 3-point line, fade left, right, I mean, he’s fading out of bounds. When he gets hot, he’s just this nightmare. You have to have a heightened confidence to play that way. Everybody in the N.B.A. has confidence, but they don’t have that.”- Clipper guard, Chauncey Billups.
Crawford says that he gelled this way with the bench on purpose. When the Clippers would practice, he’d make it a point to play pick up games while being on the same team as the other bench guys. “We played together every day,” Crawford said. “It’s like we got it figured out in September.” Crawford and the Clippers have got it figured out. They are now 27-8 this season, that’s the best record in the entire NBA.
No one has yet figured out the formula to contain the Clippers though. A big reason why they are unfathomable to figure out how to defend against is their super-sub, whose entire system is based on chaos. You can’t try and beat down a hurricane, its only purpose is to spin wild and throw things around. How do you stop someone who has no clue how to stop himself?
Even his coach gives him a free reign to go wild, and there’s often no specific set which the Clippers use to call Crawford’s number. Play the very best defense and keep him 25 feet away from the rim, and he still scores. Like Billups said, when he gets it going, he is a nightmare to be up against.
The hottest spark plug off the bench belongs to the LA Clippers. They say championships are won on the back of benches, and this bench has the most potent punch in the league. Come play-off time, there shouldn’t be a sliver of doubt about whom the Sixth Man of the Year should go to.