Dec 15

Crawford Picks Portland

By mikebarrett
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.
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  1. Hey Mike - What a few days for us Blazers fans, huh?
    All things considered though, I think we should be thankful and happy. It is bittersweet of course, but also even a bit touching in the way that B Roy officially left in terms of his most recent role with the team (hope he is back in the future, as Chad Buchanan mentioned earlier today).

    I mentioned in the chat as we watched Chad comment on both developments, that maybe we could have some sort of gathering in Pioneer Square when Brandon is ready, both mentally and emotionally. Of course, many of us fans hope that the team with retire #7 at some point in the near future, but there is time for that.

    Though we may not have all the pieces we thought we would have this year, most of all Greg, now that Brandon has hung up his laces, I find it so wonderful that we have a guy like Wesley, who is all about the team and winning. With guys like that on the team, when the tough times come, as they inevitable will during the course of the season, hopefully, the team's best interests will come before anything else. As fans, we have had to go through tough times these last few years, but I can still say that I am a proud fan and someone who can be proud of what this team has been the last few years and with today's events, what it is and I hope, will be for many years to come. It has been a great ride, with Brandon leading us the last 5 years, but I think we are in for another great stretch with LA leading the team and with the addition of Jamal - which I hope if he fits in nicely, will be longer than his current contract.

    Thanks for the quick blog Mike on an emotional day for all of us who are a part of this team.

    Good and exciting times ahead I think :-)

    by Anees on 12/15/2011 4:32 PM
  2. Hey mike you are on the spot again.

    I got to see your smiling face Mike and Casey this afternoon. that was a great show.
    I think Crawford had to know that BRoy was OK with the amnesty before he made that final decision.
    It sounds like Crawford can indeed fill much of the hole that BRoy left, I am not sceptical, I just don't know. I am OK with putting this behind us and moving on. No more controversy on it, and let the rest of the decisions be made on the floor.
    With the Blazers having more money next year and with bird rights they can compete in the free agency and match if they chose to do so and if Crawford chooses to test the market.
    You pointing out this afternoon that for this year depth was important, so I don't think E Williams are Armon Johnson will be left out. But will get to develop without quite so much pressure.
    You said you would keep working on Pryz. I am holding you to your word.
    The one finality that surfaced is that deep in the recesses of my morbid brain, I was hoping that BRoy would come back next year after this demanding season was over and play with us again. Now if that was to happen, it would be after his contract was up and he wouldn't have the pressure of playing up to a max contract.
    I am glad that LMA is cleared to play Saturday that way he will be available for preseason game.
    My last good news is I just found out that Greg is with the team and riding Bike doing practice. So it gives me hope for him this year.

    I thank you for the post my good man

    by Hg on 12/15/2011 4:34 PM
  3. I am happy we got Crawford. Solid player, 15-20 ppg for the majority of his career...and for only 10 million...that is a deal. The Blazers are doing what they can under crazy circumstances.

    I would love for us to pick up Howard from the Magic next year if they end up keeping him and not trading him to the Nets this year. We would have plenty of cap room. Then you got solid backcourt-Mathews,Crawford,Felton...Got Aldridge and Batum and Howard for your future front court?= NICE :)

    I know I know...were commited to Oden, praying for a miracle and hopefully that works out lol

    by whitefeather21380 on 12/15/2011 4:38 PM
  4. This is the first time i have read a piece by you MB. I like your style, nice work.

    by Wayne M Kehler on 12/15/2011 4:53 PM
  5. I think your wrong Barrett. I think Crawford should start and Matthews should come off the bench.

    by Todd Scofield on 12/15/2011 4:54 PM
  6. Well when you look at Crawford's numbers and experience in the nba, some may say that he should start before Mathews. But you got to look at it a other way. First off, Crawford is used to coming off the bench. In Atlanta he was coming off the bench and scoring 18ppg. Like Jason Terry, he can come off the bench and still get plenty of mins. and score big numbers. Plus Mathews is getting more used to being starter for Portland, and understand the game style of the Blazers more as of now. So with that being said, Crawford will be comfortable off the bench and supply us with plenty of offensive punch :)

    by whitefeather21380 on 12/15/2011 5:13 PM
  7. You know what Nate will preach. DEFENSE. Now we have a nice mix of young and aged. This might be the defensive team Nate has always wanted. It will take a while before this team has an identity. I hope it is defense. Game on.

    by Divotking on 12/15/2011 5:37 PM
  8. Now I am excited!!! I feel like we have a team again that CAN compete...and IF we can get a healthy Oden in there for a playoff run, watch out west!!!
    peace out,

    by daddylogan on 12/15/2011 5:39 PM
  9. @blazermb follow
    unfortunitely im back mb, great blog as usual you didnt include ur twitter and your forgot us fans had help in recruiting jamal, chad even said jamal got alot fo tweets via blazer fans which thrilled him to ome and cant wait for him to play and get that support, but your not a big twitter guy so ehh

    by jamie (guy) on 12/15/2011 5:55 PM
  10. Just picked up Craig Smith from the Clippers. Hes 6'7 265lb bruiser who can bang and get some boards. He can also score. So now we added some muscle, which is good, since we didnt get Pendergraph. Heres hoping for 1 more player before the season starts.....Joel Przybilla :)

    by whitefeather21380 on 12/15/2011 6:01 PM
  11. I'm working on it Jamie. I'll add the Twitter handle. Keep forgetting that.


    by mikebarrett on 12/15/2011 6:38 PM
  12. We've added a rugged inside defender, a proven outside shooter, and we're planning to run. As I said earlier, the Blazers could be a dangerous team this season.

    by dgpdx on 12/15/2011 6:44 PM
  13. MB thanks as always,
    It is a great relief to know it won't be a small rotation if we need guys to step up. Whatever happens, this year I am cheering in honor or Portland's savior, Mr. Roy - and supporting the decisions of management - they made decisions in the best interest of the health and state of the franchise. There will never be another Brandon Roy, but no one could come in and give us a 2nd wind like his friend J Crossover. Also, Thomas and Smith are gonna make this front line's job easier on LaMarcus, which he deserves.

    This is gonna be fun. Time to get some tickets. One day at a time I will take it, so far, things are far better than expected. This season is for BRoy, and my prayers STILL going out to him and I thank him.

    by Bull Frog on 12/15/2011 7:52 PM
  14. Great to have Jamal Crawford here. It says a lot if a player is able to leave a team with fans they like, and disappoint a bunch of cities and leave some cash on the table for a chance to win and play with a team that he knows respects him. Great to see him come here, I'm already liking the guy as a Blazer.

    Speaking of Blazers, I think I saw Earl Barron today at my work. It's hard to remember just how tall these players are until they're standing 3 feet in front of you being what seems like twice your height (and I'm a pretty tall guy).

    Excited for the season. So many great players to watch. Shout-out to Roy. We still love you man.

    by Herr on 12/15/2011 8:53 PM
  15. Great piece Mr. Barrett. Unfortunately, I cannot follow you on Twitter, as I only know how to lead:). This is a great move for Portland, and we just increased our win total. This will be a better team then last year, and we all know what was possible(Mavs series) last year. It also feels good because Crawford is a Seattle native, and of course a very good friend of Roy's. You can expect to see a lot of Roy at the games this year. And for those of you who are unfamiliar to Crawford...you will see a lot of Roy in him, they are very similar players. Cant wait for fan fest!

    by L.T.G on 12/15/2011 9:26 PM
  16. I've been one of the many fans out there constantly telling Jamal that "Rip City can't wait until you join us when this lock out ends." I was even one of the many who were at L.A's Rip City Classic who got to show Jamal what it's like to play for the city of Portland. And after that game when he was autographing my jersey for me, I told him "It's going to be great having you on the team this season." All he could do was smile at the comment. You could tell that he had already fallen in love with the city. As hard as it is to say goodbye to Roy, it's nice to have something positive to come out of something so sad. Miss ya already Roy, hope to see you coaching on the sidelines or maybe even getting to work with Mike and Mike under the headset like you did at the end of last season. I remember Mike and Mike saying that maybe you had found your next calling. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you find peace doing it.
    And Jamal... Welcome To RIP CITY!!! Prepare to have your mind blown away the first time you step onto the court in front of the thousands of Blazer Maniacs!! Best of luck, I am excitted to call myself a BLAZER!!

    by Jestatom on 12/15/2011 11:08 PM
  17. Mike;
    I know I said that it is time to say goodbye to the Brandon Roy era and move on, but as good as it feels to have some new hope, I don't get the same tingle as I did with the thought of BRoy, LMA and Greg playing together.

    Nevertheless it is a tingle of hope and still hoping for Greg and LMA.

    by Hg on 12/16/2011 1:15 AM
  18. Strange is that in most of the previous comments on this blog and the last blog there is no mention on Gerald Wallace...

    Crash showed us what he can do last year, and he'll do much more as time passes. We have expectations on our new PG Felton, on Nic (who shows a lot of potential, even more playing for his country or on the french team he was playing), on the new rookies and bench guys, but idk why no one mentions how great Wallace is going to be for this team.

    To me the blazers are pretty good right now even without our leader Broy. Yea yea, Memphis is good, San Antonio always is, Mavs are getting even BETTER and OKC getting experience (I didn't mention Lakers coz they are going down). Even so, I still think we have to give our best shot, and that we'll be going to second round this year (or better if our team gets a good flow).

    So let's go Blazers! We got a team that has some good chemestry, some new names (compared to our beloved 2008-2009-2010 blazers), but mostly we have players that got teamwork, guts and heart.

    PG - Felton, (and another rookie/sophomore)
    SG - Mathews, Crawford (idk in which order)
    SF - Crash, Batum
    PF - LA, Craig Smith (new guy... or mabbe Crash backing at PF too)
    C - Camby, Thomas

    Pretty good team if you ask me.

    by Tiago Torigoe on 12/16/2011 5:32 AM
  19. Tiago Torigoe: I agree that is a pretty great starting and second five.
    I for one haven't forgotten GW, but most of us was speaking of going forward, and GW won't comment on his players option next year, plus he is in a rumored trade with 3 other teams that is temporarily called off because Orlando backed out.
    another factor, which I don't know too much about is that Nic and GW plays the same position whereas the team needs big minutes out of both of them,

    Smith is pretty much got the backup PG spot taken, because of his experience in college and training at Duke, which gives him actually more experience then Armon. But beings as how Smith is new, and Crawford is a finisher, that can create, Nic can create, Gerald can create and Thomas can create with a great mid range shot. The point I am making with our group of guys, we can have a starting 5, second 5, finishing 5 and a small 5. uptempo five, and a half court five.
    For this year as of right now Wallace is one of the keys to our success; with the 66 games in 123 days our third 5 will also be important.

    Babbitt, Armon, EW, Chris Johnson, and later maybe Greg.
    In short I feel we have a great 15 guys taking us through to the play offs without our normal injury bug

    by Hg on 12/16/2011 6:30 AM
  20. Our depth is insane...OMG....
    MB...you are such a machine this week..........
    This is a great signing for the Blazers,Crawford provides the scoring punch we have been needing.One factor about Crawford is he is definitely a guy who wants to take the last shot.....Thmas is tough,Craig Smith, definitely serious banger.....Some great signings....

    One thing I like about Kurt Thomas...Best scowl in the league..HANDS DOWN..........haha

    by DowntownVinnie on 12/16/2011 7:58 AM
  21. This is LMA's team. He is our ambassador. He is the key to the chemistry we have. Remember when he became a blazer he wouldn't even let his teammates know where he lived. Now he is the leader without a doubt. What he did for Dre still brings a tear to my eye. No love lost for BRoy but this has been LMA's team for a while. We rode his back hard last year. Now he has help. Look out western conference.

    by Divotking on 12/16/2011 9:22 AM
  22. Yeah, the more bodies we have, the better.

    I like Chris Johnson, I liked what he did for us last year (even if it was subtle). I don't have much faith in Armon or Babbitt or EW, but they're going to get some minutes so they better be solid.

    I didn't knew all that info on GW, mister Hg. Thanks for the info, I was just making a point on how everybody mentions many players, but I haven't seen a lot of people talking about Crash (and in some degree about Mathews too).

    Anyways, this season I hope Blazers do a big splash, and surprise everyone else that doesn't count the Blazers as a true, dangerous contender.

    Cheers from Brazil


    by Tiago Torigoe on 12/16/2011 9:23 AM
  23. Awesome! i think we're back! We got plenty of fire power now.. and it looks like we've done quite a bit more signing of free agents. I am really optimistic now about this season. I wonder if B-Roys retirement for him was meant to take him away from the game for a little bit and come back in a couple years. Maybe he knows there's a mutual respect between him and the blazers on being a part of this team. That's from hearing what Chad Buchanan was talking about. Look at this way. We receive many positives with his retirement. The amnesty clause and which he can still be a part of this organization with a new contract if he decides to come back. We receive Jamal Crawford (we've gotten surprisingly deeper) We just freed up some cap space so we can add another big piece in summer 2012. It's basically a win/win for us. A little more icing on the cake would be signing Pryz and Oden coming back. Then we'd be over-achieving but who could go wrong with that, especially if we miraculously are injury-free this year. A lot of positives here and it looks like the Blazers are back in the championship hunt for sure! i hope! :D ..... oh and i think Matthews should start because Crawford wouldn't mind since most of his career he's been off the bench. Our rotation should look like this

    G- Felton (Nolan Smith, Jamal Crawford sometimes)
    G- Wes Matthews (Jamal Crawford, Batum)
    F- Crash (Batum, Babbit)
    F- Aldridge (Chris Johnson, Crash, Thomas when oden is back)
    C- Camby (Thomas, Johnson)

    by Ballinrotation365 on 12/16/2011 9:33 AM
  24. It looks like Nate is truly committing to a running game. Should be fun to watch. Of course every running game starts with the defense and good outlet passing. It will take a little time to get the players in shape and in synch.

    by Divotking on 12/17/2011 10:17 AM
  25. Ballinrotation365:

    I don't know if you left Elliot Williams out because you didn't know where to stick him, but IMO, he is going to be a big factor this year.

    by Hg on 12/17/2011 10:34 AM
  26. HG:

    I thought i counted a 12 man rotation but i obviously miscounted because i included Oden but that's what it would look like if he were to be back. But how could i forget Elliot Williams!? I guess i'll just re-make the list like this

    G- Raymond Felton
    G- Wes Matthews
    F- Nicolas Batum
    F- Gerald Wallace
    C- LaMarcus Aldridge

    G- Jamal Crawford
    F- Kurt Thomas
    C- Chris Johnson
    F- Luke Babbit
    F- Elliot Williams
    F- Craig Smith
    G- Nolan Smith

    Notes: This is the starting line-up from the start of the season. I heard Camby wasn't going to suit up for a while and some would argue Armon Johnson instead of Nolan Smith but i differ. Nolan is going to be a really good point guard and should get a few minutes in for Felton.

    by Ballinrotation365 on 12/18/2011 9:24 PM
  27. I think there's reason for hope, even if Gerald's status is still up in the air. (I like his game, but still don't see how the team can get Nic to take the next step forward if he's being pushed to the bench). All the extra bodies will help in a season that starts too early and doesn't offer much time off, but I worry about the new players meshing with the old on such a short schedule. I expect the pre-season games to be pretty ugly, with lots of missed assignments and offensive confusion. Sorting out the rotations will be especially tricky given that LA and Marcus might miss the first exhibition game. But I'd hope that Nate will use the period when guys are playing themselves into shape to give everyone a fair shot to win a place in the rotation, instead of saying to guys like Elliot, Armin and Luke, "you're in only until you make your first mistake." I'd really like to see what these guys can do if they're given a decent chance. And there are lots of new guys to figure out too. Monday may be ugly, but it will be nice to start getting an idea of what we've got.

    by Islander on 12/18/2011 10:21 PM
  28. Ballinrotation365: I think Camby is suiting up, he missed the FAN FEST because of a bad back, but I think he has been practicing.

    It seems as though Nolan Smith is almost a cinch on back-up PG. In fact McMillan thinks Armon is better at playing the 2 gd.

    IMO, your starting line-up is when we want to or can go small, I think the starting line up will have LMA at PF, and Camby or Thomas as Center. I also think Crawford, Felton, LMA GW or Batum, and Thomas for closing. I pick Thomas because of his clutch short jumper and his pick and rolls.

    We have a lots of interesting options and with so many games in such a short period they all should improve.

    I can't wait. Even tomorrow night and Wednesday is important to me.

    by Hg on 12/18/2011 10:25 PM
  29. HG:

    Well if were planning to play fast, then we should insert that small line-up + it would give Batum the recognition he deserves in starting. Oh and yes that's what i also thought about Armon in the first place. He's more of a 2 guard. I think what we saw at fanfest puts a stamp on that. We do have a lot of options tho. And I wouldn't mind starting Thomas in any stretch. I think even at his age, he can still RUN! And that's because we've known Thomas as a Hustler throughout his career. If he ran with Rose & the bulls, he can sure run with the blazers.

    by Ballinrotation365 on 12/18/2011 10:53 PM
  30. Ballinrotation365:
    I am not disagreeing with you on the small line-up for speed, again IMO, we lose our rebounding edge, plus if opponent has a big body for a center they can muscle LMA out of the middle and wear him out. That is why I said a small line up is great at times. Good D and getting the boards and a good outlet pass is essential for fast breaks. We only need three fast players on a break Felton with Wesley and GW on the wings plus for an extra punch we can have LMA trailing the play. Camby, Thomas, CJ, and even Greg are fast enough to get up and down the floor. And they give us that extra punch for getting the boards.

    If Camby is good to go, I would pick my starting five as:
    Craig Johnson

    With the small unit we mentioned and some of Thomas and Camby, Thomas and LMA, with Thomas ability to rebound and hit short jumpers will keep the bigs from pounding on LMA. and give him more room to operate.

    Again IMO, we need a good half court set if our fast break isn't there. And I feel we have both and that is essential for the types of oponents we face.

    by Hg on 12/19/2011 12:32 AM
  31. Marcus Camby said if the fan fest were a real game he would of suited up. He'll be fine. However he is injury prone and he doesn't often play hurt. Thomas will get plenty of minutes at starting center. There will be different starting combinations early in the year. Short training camp and really no preseason. This will be a fun season. No over-the-top expectations. I do believe there will be some pleasant surprises.

    by Divotking on 12/19/2011 5:06 PM
  32. Plug in LMA and lookout.

    by Divotking on 12/19/2011 7:36 PM
  33. Most tattoo'd Blazer?

    by Tattoo You on 12/26/2011 1:36 PM
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