Jamal Crawford has finally found his place.
SLAM: Is being comfortable a big part of being successful in the NBA?
JC: I think being comfortable and having confidence. There’s nothing like it on the court. Being out there, making mistakes, having good times, having bad times. Experience is the best teacher. It’s hard to do it when you’re just sitting there watching.
SLAM: After a few years in Chicago you went to New York in a sign-and-trade. Why did you pick New York?
JC: Isiah always liked me. I remember a conversation I had with him when I was a rookie, and we talked for two hours. When I was a free agent, he called me at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of free agency. So I was like, I’ll go. The first year I was there, we were number one in our division until I hurt my toe. Second year, Larry Brown came in and that just didn’t work for anybody. Third year, I got hurt again, my ankle injury. And my fourth year was probably my best year. Then I got traded to Golden State the next season.
SLAM: What was it like playing for the Knicks during the Isiah era? It seemed like he was constantly under fire.
JC: It was tough. Because we felt like he put together a lot of talent, a lot of talent. The last year the starting five was myself and Steph in the backcourt, QRich at the 3, and Zach and Eddy, and this was after Eddy had a season averaging 19 ppg. And coming off the bench we had David Lee, Nate Robinson. But I still talk to Isiah now. He’s always been straight up and honest with me.
SLAM: Atlanta’s been a good fit though?
JC: Yeah. I just had to take on a different role. The core group had been together for a while. And at that point, for me, it’s about having the chance to win. I totally bought into this new role of coming off the bench, but it didn’t really hit me until the first preseason game. It was new, it was different. But I was OK with it.
SLAM: How did you adjust to coming off the bench?
JC: It’s different mentally and physically. When I got traded to Atlanta, I spent that summer playing pick-up and sitting out the first game before coming on to the court, to try and mentally get used to coming off the bench. And physically, you have to speed up. You get a chance to see the flow of the game, see how it’s going. When I come in with four or five minutes to go in the first, I look at it like I’ve got to speed up and make an impact.
SLAM: What’s surprising to me is how consistent you are, considering how often you’ve moved around.
JC: Think about this: Isiah was the first time in my career that I had the same coach two years in a row. Eleven years. And every coach has a different way to use you or whatever.
SLAM: That’s amazing. In football, a quarterback gets a different offensive coordinator every year and can’t be successful. But you’ve made it work.
JC: Most people have the same coach for a few years, so you go to training camp and know what the sets are going to be or whatever. And now, I’m a free agent this summer, who knows if I’ll have the same coach next year? It’s crazy. I think everybody wants that stability. My first year was Tim Floyd, then it was Bill Cartwright, then it was Pete Myers, then Scott Skiles, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, Herb Williams, Isiah, D’Antoni, Don Nelson, Mike Woodson, Larry Drew.
SLAM: Do you feel like fans know you?
JC: I think they’re learning more about me. They’ve learned more about me the last two years than they ever knew before, just from winning. Winning does that, though. So I’ve really enjoyed my time in Atlanta, helping a good team. People here have really taken to me, and that’s been cool.
SLAM: Are you happy with the direction that your career has gone so far?
JC: Yeah, yeah. It’s never what you expect. It’s worked out, and I wouldn’t change a thing—the bumps along the road, the people I’ve met. You have to go through rain to get to the rainbow. I’m just 31, and I think I can play at a high level for a while, another six or seven years. I really think I’m just getting started.