Crawford Picks Portland
And to think, it was only 20 days ago that we found out there would be a NBA season at all. Seems like forever ago, doesn't it? Especially given what has happened, specifically to the roster of the Portland Trail Blazers, since then.
Some of it has been sad, disappointing, and certainly concerning. But a good dose of positive news has come our way as well. That was due. Aren't we used to wild emotional swings as Blazer fans anyway?
On Thursday, the negative was that the door officially slammed shut on the Brandon Roy era in Portland. It's still difficult to sort through all of that, and I'm not sure we've all gotten the closure that will eventually come. But, the positive, and it's a big positive, is that the Blazers have signed Jamal Crawford, a guy the team has long coveted.
It's ironic (and this will be talked about for days to come) that Roy and
the Blazers have long coveted Crawford, and now it's because
of Brandon's departure that they're able to sign Jamal.
Roy's agent, Greg Lawrence told The Oregonian's
Jason Quick, about the amnesty decision, "it gives some closure. It makes him (Brandon) happy it allows them to sign a player." Ever the team player, even now in retirement.
Roy also deserves some credit in helping Crawford come to this decision. According to Crawford, they speak almost every day. Undoubtedly, Roy was a factor in Crawford turning down an offer that was $1.5 million larger from the Sacramento Kings. Brandon looks good, as always, and Crawford does what pro athletes rarely do, and that's leave money on the table.
But, Roy wasn't alone in this recruitment of Crawford. This was a team effort. Nate McMillan, who has known Crawford since he was 16, obviously was working him, as were LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews.
I was at a gathering with Wesley on Tuesday night and after watching him send repeated text messages, I asked "you're not by any chance working on Jamal are you?" He said, "I absolutely am." And, keep in mind, Matthews plays the same position as Crawford. You don't often see a guy work so hard to bring in a guy who will compete directly with him for shots and minutes. "He'll help us win games, and that's all that matters," Matthews told me.
Crawford, who scored 52 points in a game for the Knicks a few years ago, will give this team something it hasn't had for a while- a very dependable, and very clutch scorer in the second unit. Of course, I'm assuming Matthews will keep his starting job, and I think that's safe to assume at this point. I envision Crawford's role being similar to what Jason Terry is to the Dallas Mavericks- not necessarily a starter, but often times a finisher.
Aldridge's courting of Crawford was also vital to the team landing him. Perhaps it's Aldridge who will benefit most from the addition. He'll have some pressure lifted off his shoulders. So many times last season the Blazers just couldn't afford to have LaMarcus off the floor, for offensive reasons. Now, there's a proven outside threat, with a history of being a guy who can take, and make, big-time shots, ready to fire away.
The other guys who get some major credit for this, and guys who have seen their stock rise dramatically this week, is the group of Chad Buchanan, Mike Born, Joe Cronin, and company. For a team that doesn't have anyone currently holding the title of GM, this was a very solid week in the front office. They were aggressive, and more importantly, creative. They took a very negative situation with Roy, and a roster with not much cap flexibility, and turned that into Kurt Thomas and Jamal Crawford- the main two guys they targeted.
It's also important to realize that not only did Crawford turn down a significantly better offer, financially anyway, to come to Portland, but that Thomas chose the Blazers over Chicago, Miami, and Dallas, for roughly the same money. And, Thomas isn't chopped liver. He started 37 games for a 62-win team last season, leading a disappointed Chicago GM Gar Forman, who badly wanted Thomas back, to say three days ago, "he was a big part of what we did a year ago."
In other words, signings like this mean as much symbolically, as they do from an immediate win-loss perspective. The notion that Portland can't compete for the services of high-value free agents took a major hit thanks to these two. That will carry weight going into next summer, which will be rich with talented free agents. And, by signing Crawford to a deal that has an opt-out clause after one season, it's a test drive, for both sides. Yes, it's beneficial to Crawford, but the Blazers also don't lose any potential cap space, if that's what they want.
The last bit of good news came later in the afternoon, when LaMarcus Aldridge announced via Twitter, that "Everything went good" with his doctor's appointment. And, then said, "Start practicing Saturday."
We need more days like this.
By the way, follow me on Twitter @Blazermb.