When the Trail Blazers front office made the decision to vigorously push to acquire veteran guard Jamal Crawford they knew exactly what they were doing. The talented guard, skilled in leading a team as a sixth man, was just what Portland’s second unit needed.
Tonight—the initial preseason game against the Utah Jazz—Blazermaniacs got to see the inaugural glimpses of what Crawford will bring to Rip City.
In his first go-around in red and black Crawford clocked 22 minutes, scored eight points, had three steals and dished 7 assists in the 110-90 defeat of Utah.
One of his first scoring plays was an ankle-breaking move past his defender to smoothly slide down the lane for a lay-up. The first thought to roll through my mind was “That’s so Brandon.” Fitting considering the two are so close and Roy’s role is exactly what Crawford stepped in to fill. We knew he was a scorer.
“I think more people see me more for my scoring. To me, I try to make plays,” Crawford said. “And the fact that I can rack so many assists, I’m looking for those guys. It’s not just about scoring, you do what’s needed that night. There will be nights where I score big, but I also want to be a huge facilitator as well when the situation calls for it.”
Scoring? Check. But don’t label him as offensive-only, Crawford’s got bigger plans, team-first plans.
It’s not until you actually talk to a guy and try to delve into his mentality, that you can truly judge how you think he’s going to fit into a new team. I’ll tell you this right now, Crawford will be special for the Trail Blazers. He’s going to make this second unit a force to be reckoned with.
An easy starting point is big-man Kurt Thomas. History is on his side there, as the two spent two seasons together playing for the Knicks. When asked what he felt “clicked” with the newly molded second unit his go-to was the tried and true.
“I think our pick-and-rolls are really, really good,” Crawford said. “I think with the way that Kurt and our big guys can shoot and the way I can play off of it and see different things... I think that pick-and-roll will always be a pretty good play for us. Because it’s the oldest play in the book from Stockton and Malone and it’s been unstoppable for years.”
What’s even more telling of Crawford and the second unit is how they’re really buying into the newly implemented running offense. It’s fascinating to see the fast pace speed up virtually every aspect of the game, from passing to decision making. It felt as if the Trail Blazers were relying on instinct rather than making calculated decisions. This reliance spurred a quickness that led to more passes and greater shot selection, another reason Crawford’s style and veteran instincts are a perfect in the Rose City.
“I think that the part that worked was the fact that we moved the ball around. We we’re all playing for each other, we don’t care about who scores,” Crawford said. “Guys are really playing for each other, giving up good shots for great shots. I think we have a real joy for passing the ball. Whenever you have an unselfish team like that you have a chance to win.”
With a team-first mentality, veteran experience and lethal scoring capabilities, it’s crystal-clear why the Trail Blazers brass pursued him so heavily.
Jamal does it all.