11-12-2012, 02:38 PM
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Jamal Crawford thriving with Clippers
One year ago, Jamal Crawford dazzled a packed house at the University of Portland, executing killer crossovers and shooting rainbow threes in a charity game that helped pass the time during the lockout. He dropped hints before and after the game that he might team up with his buddy LaMarcus Aldridge and sign with the Trail Blazers in free agency. Crawford was back here on Thursday, in the Rose Garden this time, being booed repeatedly by fans who blame him, in part, for the Blazers’ lost 2011-12 season.
“I don’t care if you score 90 points,” one man shouted from the 200 level. “We don’t want you back.”
If Crawford didn’t hear that particular line, he also didn’t miss the boos when he checked in for the Clippers and then again as he took over the game in the fourth quarter. A Seattle native who had been greeted by some as a possible savior after Brandon Roy’s release via the amnesty clause and unofficial retirement because of knee injuries, Crawford was singled out, along with point guard Raymond Felton, in reports as a member of a midseason locker-room “mutiny” against coach Nate McMillan.
“I think anybody that was a part of last year deserved to get booed,” Crawford told SI.com. “It was a weird situation because we started out No. 1 in the West the first two weeks of the season. Then we hit some bumps in the road, kind of went downhill. I was a part of that. I’ll take that [booing] on the chin and I won’t look bad at the Portland fans. I’m a Northwest guy. … No hard feelings, no regrets.”
There was a bit of a scorned-lover vibe to some of the heckles, a personal frustration that has endured since the Blazers crashed from a 7-2 start to a 28-38 finish, firing McMillan and dealing veterans Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline to begin an overhaul in earnest. The 2012-13 Blazers, younger and less proven, are in for a long season, even if their march proceeds without the weight of the heavy expectations that Crawford and company bore last year. The grass is greener on a lot of lawns around the league, and Crawford’s Clippers (4-2) are sitting atop the Pacific Division after defeating the Blazers 103-90 on Thursday night. In Portland, Crawford is not only an ex but he’s also at least at this moment, an ex who upgraded and is perfectly happy.
“I haven’t felt this comfortable since high school,” Crawford, who finished with a game-high 25 points, said of his new team. “I feel like I have a home. I want to be here as long as they want me here.”
MPT: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.