Got my first chance to talk to the newest Warriors, guard Jamal Crawford. Watching him in his first practice, I am going to go out on a limb and say he’s pretty good. Most important, he is in control. You know how when many of the Warriors are dribbling, you feel like a turnover is about to happen? How many times have you been watching the game and involuntarily applied the white-knuckle death grip to the arm of the chair while one of the Warriors precariously led a fast break?
You’re not going to get that feeling with Crawford. In that short 30-minute stint I saw, he was composed and fluid with his ball-handling and pace. It really stood out, too.
Anyway, after practice, his new, thick binder of plays by his side, Crawford sat down to chat.
What was your reaction to the news of the trade?
I was surprised because my name wasn’t out there at all. When I heard he news I was shocked. But after that, I was excited.
So you happy to be back on the West Coast?
Personally, yes. Not just being on the West Coast, but the way we play. I’ve been a fan for a while, watching all the games. … So I’m excited.
What was New York like with all that drama?
It was tough. It was tough. We went through a lot. It was a lot more off the court than anything. It seemed like it was always something, so it was hard to focus on just trying to win, which is the bottom line.
How do you think you and Monta will work out?
I think we can play together. I don’t think we’ll have a problem at all. Both of us like to play off the ball and on the ball. When you have two players in the backcourt that want to do that, you won’t have problems.
What’s the Warriors reputation from the outside looking in?
Fun. Definitely fun to watch. Even when you guys were in the playoffs that year, I wanted to come down, it seemed so exciting. I think the fans, they make it like a college atmosphere. They make it really, really fun. It makes it almost like you’re in summer league in high school. You know, it’s just a lot of fun out there playing.
What is the learning curve for you?
I’ve got the big playbook so far. I’ll learn some things. For the most part, pretty simple to start, pretty basic. But I’ll pick it up as time goes on.
When was the last time you’ve had freedom on the court?
Maybe Chicago. Honestly, I talked to my high school coach this morning, I haven’t had this type of feeling since then. Us players just go have fun, the ball’s going to be in your hands a lot, get everybody set. Get guys involved so they’re oiut there having fun, they’re playing hard. We’ll have fun together.
I had a lot of different coaches. Everyone of them was different – from Lenny Wilkens to Larry Brown to Isiah to coach D’Antoni. Coach D’Antoni’s system is similar to this one. This one I think is even a little bit easier to pick up. So it help I just played in that system, for sure.
How does it feel to be wanted?
It feels so good. It feels so good. Honestly, I think this system fits me better than any system in the league. Coming here with coach Nelson, a Hall of Fame coach … it’s re-energizing. I’m excited.
You know any of these guys?
I knew Stephen Jackson. I knew Corey Maggette and Ronny over the years. Everybody seems really friendly and they welcomed me with open arms.
Jax is happy you’re here, huh?
Yeah, you should ask him about that. (smile) He’s pretty happy.
Would you say you’re better as a point guard or a shooting guard?
Honestly, it’s weird because I’ve always (played point guard). In high school I played point guard. Coming into the NBA I was a point guard. So I’ve always been a point guard who can score. But once you get big-number scoring games, they’re like “He’s a scorer” and they put you in that box. But like I told coach Nelson, I think he’ll be more surprised than anything at my passing. Coach D’Antoni when he came he thought I’d be averaging 25 points a game. After he got with me, he was like, ‘You’re a better passer than anything.’ So I have no problem getting those guys the ball and scoring when I need to.
You feel like an old veteran around all these young guys?
I do, but I feel young as well. I’m in my ninth year, but I’m just 28. I came in a 19 years old. So it’s refreshing to be around these guys.
What ties to the Bay Area do you have?
I have some family here. It’s only an hour-and-a-half, an hour-and-45-minute flight from Seattle. And I have a lot of family in Los Angeles so they’ll all be out supporting. … Now I’m on the West Coast. It’s hard because on the East, people are still at work. Now they get a chance to see me.
What are your feelings about coming to a franchise that is rebuilding?>
That’s fine. I’m excited. It’s a new challenge. I think when you do that, there’s no expectations. You can go out and watch the young guys grow and get better. I think we hae some great young talent, especially playing with those guys today. Morrow is a great shooter. You can’t give that guy any space. You got Goose. You’ve got Monta when he gets healthy. There are so many young guys. Brandan Wright. Anthony Randolph. All these guys are getting better. Hopefully we can kind of be the ones to show them the way.
What’s up with No. 6?
I wore 23 in high school. Two times three is six. I just wanted a fresh start. I wore No. 1 in Chicago. I wore No. 11 in New York. I just wanted a fresh start, a different look, a different feel. … When I was in New York ( I wore 11 for) Isiah Thomas because he was so instrumental in bringing me there.
So shouldn’t you wear No. 19 to pay homage to Nellie?
I think I’m so skinny, I look better in single digits.
How would you assess yourself defensively?
Defensively, I think I’m better on the ball defensively. Weakside, sometimes I have a tendency to kind of watch. I personally don’t want my man to score, but you’ve got to be a better help defender. I feel like I can keep growing in that area and keep growing in my overall game. I only played two years of high school, a half of year of college and now this is my 10th or 11th coach in nine years. So there’s been a lot of change. But I’ll get better at it.
You comfortable guarding bigger guards?
Yeah, because I played the two. When I played with Steph I played the two and with Duhon I played the two, so that’s not a problem. So that’s why I think with Monta, when he comes back, he can guard the point guard and I can guard the two and on offense we can switch up.
You might ending guarding threes here, too …
That’s fine, because we played Nate, Duhon and myself together a lot.
You might have to guard fours …
That’s fine. They’ve got to guard me, too. I saw Corey doing that last night. … In New York, myself, Nate, Duhon and Wilson Chandler started at power forward and he’s really probably a natural three. So (D’Antoni’s system) is very, very similar.
What do you think Oracle Arena will be like?
That Monday against the Heat? Hopefully we can get some wins on this trip and get the fans excited and hopefully they’ll want to come out and support us.
What about Saturday’s game?
New York? I haven’t thought about that one. I want to get Washington, then go to Boston, do one at a time.
Isn’t it amazing how the trade and the scheduling worked out?
I know. (We play them) that fast. Unbelievable. It really is. … Everything happens for a reason. I think this is a huge opportunity for myself and I’m just really excited.
Does all the drama hurt a team on the court?
It does. It really does. We did a better job later blocking it out. This year, there was some stuff with Steph going on. But besides that, it was a pretty drama free year. We got off to the best start in 10 years for the Knicks. So it was surprising, like I said, with this trade but … It’s weird because like, Brandon Roy is one of my best friends. He just played you guys two weeks ago and he was like, ‘I love it down there.’ Then when the trade went through, I think he was more excited than any of us. I talk to him everyday. He was like, ‘Mal, you’re going to love it there. They gone love you. It’s a perfect fit.’ We talked before the season about if I ever got traded or if I ever re-signed with somebody, this was the place. SO it’s weird. I’m just happy. I’m very happy. It’s close to home. It’s perfect.
Looking to rack up the assists passing to Morrow?
Yeah, he’s a scorer. I know exactly where to put it for him. I was watching last night. Teams are really starting to key on him a little bit, but he’ll find ways to get going.
Part of that is getting him shots, right?
I’m not really worried about scoring. I’ve been known for that my whole career anyway. That’s always the last resort. I want to make sure these guys get the ball feeling good about themselves. My thought is to get those guys going first and then scoring, I’ll take the opportunities. But I want to set the table for those guys.
This team has struggled in the fourth quarter, but you have a reputation for being clutch. You looking forward to coming up big down the stretch for this team?
I love it. In the fourth quarter, my focus really goes up. I could be 0-for-10 through the first three then go 5-for-5 in the fourth when the game is on the line. In New York, if you can do it there with those fans and stuff going on, I think my fans here will help me out a lot.
You had a couple years ago where you hit a bunch of game-winners. What was that like?
I hit four in one year. The year before I had two. Last year, total I had seven that was actually considered game-winners, but there were a lot more with like 10 seconds left or so. That’s a great rush.
Is there pressure kind of replacing Baron?
He’s a friend of mine. I grew up with him in LA. So I know Baron pretty well. I think we’re different in some ways, but some things are the same. I think we’re both pretty exciting. I think he’s a team – I know he’s a team-first guy and I want to put my team first, for sure. It’s hard because all the stuff that happened in New York, if you’re still there, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re just part of that whole losing regime.” I think we had some good players, we just didn’t jell and it just didn’t work out. But that tag is always on you. So I want to shake that tag. It’s a new start.
If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, right?
It’s hard, though. There, if you’re not beating a team that they think you should be beating, and it’s a tie score, they’ll boo. During timeouts, people are shooting for trips to Hawaii or whatever. If they miss the wrong way, they’ll boo them, too. It’a tough, so it will be a welcomed change. But I had a good time.