Q+A: Jamal Crawford
The Trail Blazers guard speaks on the whirlwind season in Portland.
by Brendan Bowers / @StepienRules
In one day the Portland Trail Blazers traded Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, released Greg Oden and fired Head Coach Nate McMillan. Talk about a whirlwind. Jamal Crawford spoke to SLAMonline about his reaction to those moves, his emotions that day, and his professional approach to basketball that he leaned on amidst rumors that he’d be traded too. He also described his extensive foundation work in the Northwest, talked about connecting with Blazers fans through Twitter, as well as offering an update on how his close friend Brandon Roy is doing these days off the court.
SLAM: Dating back to free agency, and the beginning of the season, what were some of the biggest factors for you in choosing to sign with Portland in the first place?
Jamal Crawford: Well for me personally, Brandon Roy is one of my best friends. With them losing him, I thought it made sense because they were losing wing scoring, and I felt like they had everything else to compete. They had a defensive philosophy, they had Coach McMillan, they had an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge, they also had bigs that were pick-and-pop guys, and pick-and-roll guys as well, and so I just thought it made sense.
I felt like this was a Playoff team, and a team that I could help go further. Then we started off the season 7-2, so there was a lot of progress, and everyone was like, “Wow.” Even for me, it was kind of surprising because I didn’t know this would take off so fast with a short training camp, guys getting in late, signing Ray Felton, me coming in here as well. I thought it would take a little bit longer as far as time to adjust.
We got off to such a fast start though that our fall has been dramatic, I think we’re right underneath .500 right now. If we’d started off the season .500, people would be like well you lost Brandon Roy, and Greg Oden’s still hurt; there would have been lower expectations possibly. But we started off so fast that it put a lot of pressure on us, and now we’re just trying to fight to get into the Playoffs.
SLAM: Looking back, what would you say happened? Did you guys start better than maybe you should have, or did something happen between that 7-2 start until now to cause that dramatic fall?
JC: Honestly, it wasn’t like one event that happened. I don’t think it was one thing. Actually, where it started, when we started to struggle was when we played OKC at home. LaMarcus blocked Kevin Durant’s shot, and at the time they called goaltending. The NBA came out the next day and said it wasn’t a goaltend, and that they made a mistake, but it started there. After that I think it carried over into our next game with Houston, and we lost that game also.
Then we went on our first 11- or 12-day road-trip, and that’s when I think it really started; we went .500, and then dropped beneath .500. So for us, I think it was the way it kind of rushed over us at that point, wondering how we go from being the number No. 2 team in the West, to just playing .500 or average basketball.
Then I think everybody started pressing a little bit. Coach McMillan tried to do some different things as far as lineups and rotations, and then as far as the wins and losses are concerned anything can happen. If a team loses, trades can happen, or people can get fired, and that was what ended up happening at the trade deadline.
SLAM: How much did the lockout-shortened season, and those long road trips, contribute to those struggles or possibly accelerate them in some ways?
JC: Yeah I don’t want to make excuses because everybody’s going through it, but I think there’s a reason why you’re seeing every single team for the most part getting blown out at some point. You see teams like Boston or Chicago who would never traditionally lose a game by 30+ points do just that, and I think with the shortened season and so many games in a short amount of time, six games in eight days for example, it is tough.
But I think the time to prepare, especially for our team when you lose what we lost, losing Brandon, losing Greg Oden, you’re bringing in a new PG, that time to get everybody acclimated is valuable. The League opened on the 15th, I signed on the 20th, and our first game was December 26, and it was just a whirlwind of emotions for everybody. I think that it all caught up to us at some point.
SLAM: What are your feelings on the moves that were made last week? Trading Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, Greg Oden being ultimately released, and then your Coach Nate McMillan being fired. Can you talk your feelings leading up to those moves, and then your reaction to them now?
JC: Honestly, I thought I was going to be traded because my name was out there so much. My agent was telling me, there’s definitely some momentum out there, and a lot of it had to do with me having an opt-out after this year. So certain people started thinking well he’s going to opt-out anyway so we might as well trade him and get something for him. But my whole thing on the opt-out was we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I’m not saying that I won’t opt-out, but even if I did opt-out that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here long-term, that’s just the business side of it.
But for me to be thinking about I’m going to opt-out in the middle of the season, I would be doing the city of Portland a disservice, this organization a disservice, and my teammates a disservice if I was thinking about opting out, and not focused on putting my best foot forward. So I’ve just been focused on doing my best every day.
To continue on with that, I did think I was going to be traded the whole time leading up to the trade deadline, and then I come to find out that Gerald gets traded. So I’m like, OK, there are three hours left in the deadline, they’re going to make some more moves. Then Marcus gets traded. Then I get a call from Chad Buchanan (Blazers Interim GM), saying we didn’t want to trade you, that the opt-out was the thing that had us nervous, because they didn’t know if I did leave, would they get something in return, but we talked about it and worked it out. And then 30 minutes later, I hear Nate McMillan’s fired. And then I’m like wow, this is crazy. Greg Oden’s released, Chris Johnson’s waived, and all of this was in the same day. It was unbelievable.
Then we’re on the road, and we still have to play in Chicago, who at that time was the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the NBA, so it was just so much to take in. But I would’ve bet you my last dollar that I was gonna be traded, because that’s what all the reports were saying, so I had no idea. But the craziest thing of all is saying me and Raymond Felton were leading a mutiny against Coach McMillan. First off, I have a different type of respect for Nate McMillan, and I told him that when we talked in his office before the season first started. I was like it’s weird being here with you because I watched you growing up in Seattle. When I was a 16-year-old kid I used to go work out with the Sonics. I’ve known Nate since I was 16, and we have a mutual friend who just passed away last year, who told me I would be playing in Portland next season.
So besides my respect for Nate, I don’t play that game let’s get the Coach fired; I’ve never been that guy. I pride myself on being a true pro. I’ll start, I’ll come off the bench, I’ll play the one, I’ll play the two, I’ll do whatever’s asked and I’ll do my very best. When we’re losing, I don’t throw anybody under the bus. We win as a team, we lose as a team, that’s just a fact.
So that was just crazy to me, and luckily there’s Twitter now so I can kinda clear things up when there’s questions out there.