Q&A: Jamal Crawford, in the zone

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Before dropping 37 points and 11 assists in Toronto, Jamal Crawford talked some ball with SB Nation, including why he calls his head coach "Barack," what it's like to be in the zone and how hard Blake Griffin works.

TORONTO -- Jamal Crawford knows a few things about having a hot hand. He has caught fire for three 50-point games in his career, and is one of four players in NBA history to have done it for three different teams. Crawford had 26 points by halftime Saturday against the Toronto Raptors, and might have reached the 50-point mark again if not for J.J. Redick heating up himself in the fourth quarter.

"Honestly I think this could have been a 50-point night because you kind of know when you have it," Crawford said.

It ended up being someone else's scoring show that night. Toronto's Terrence Ross ended up with 51 points. Crawford gladly settled for a 126-118 win and the most anyone has scored off the bench this season.

Crawford was praised for his 37 points when he entered the locker room after the game, but he pointed elsewhere on the stat sheet.

"I'm like, ‘I had 11 assists!'" Crawford said. "I love passing. I really do. And I try to get my teammates easy stuff. I pride myself on being a combo guard who can do both."

Crawford has had to do it all lately, playing some backup point guard while superstar Chris Paul is out with a shoulder injury. Crawford is usually the Clippers' sixth man, but he started 14 games when Redick was recovering from a broken hand. Regardless of how he gets on the court, Crawford is doing the same things he has always done, dancing around defenders and creating shots whenever his team needs him. He's a huge reason why the Clippers are 32-15 and have gone 11-3 in January despite Paul getting hurt in the second game of the month.

Before his monster game at the Air Canada Centre, the 14-year vet talked with SB Nation about the Clips, mentoring young players, what it's like to be in the zone and more:

What do you know about Doc Rivers that you didn't know before this year?

He's better than even I thought he was. I'm a fan and people are fans from afar when they watch everything he's done in Boston, but to get a chance to see him on a day-to-day basis and see his attention to detail, how nothing's more important than winning, it's always big picture, seeing all those things every single way is why all of us would run through a wall for him.

Is that what separates him, that he's won titles and understands the journey?

I think being a championship-contending team, you have to have a championship-level coach to take you over the top. He's been to the mountaintop, he's conquered it and been back to it. For him, and for us, ever since Day 1, when we first had our first meeting, he was right there and everybody was on the edge of their seats listening to him.

You nicknamed him "Barack," right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. He's just the best. Honestly, he's just the best. The way he speaks, the way he carries himself, I think he's a great role model and I'm happy that I get a chance to work with him every day.

What's something you know about Blake Griffin that most people don't?

He's one of the hardest workers I've seen. Ever. Example, we were in Detroit, we had played a game on MLK Day and he had 25 points or whatever he had, took over the game. We flew into Charlotte -- this is on the day of the game, it was an early game -- we flew into Charlotte and I go in the weight room to get some stuff done, he's in the weight room having a full workout.

You guys were here about a year ago and I was asking you about Eric Bledsoe ...

I say he was gonna be a star?

Pretty much.

Yeah, right?

Anything surprise you about how he's done in Phoenix?

Not at all, not at all. I was probably one of the first people he talked to when he got traded. To see how fast that went and how he's opening everybody's eyes, I'm happy for him.


Photo credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

That's a guy you sort of mentored, you've also mentored other younger teammates and other Seattle guys like Isaiah Thomas. What's it like for you to see guys like that doing well?

It means everything. It means everything because that's what I always longed for, I guess, growing up and getting into the league. To have somebody that's been through the experiences and can give me advice. I want nothing from those guys but to see them be successful, so it means a lot when they are successful. Not only just on the court, but off the court.

Isaiah is like, that's literally like my little brother. From him staying at my house all the time when he was in high school. So that's like my little brother, it's different. But seeing other guys have big games, I'll text them and tell them to keep going. And when they have a bad game, I'll text them and tell them to keep going. It's not just when things are good. I just try to be a good influence.

A lot of guys come to L.A. in the summer, what are those scrimmages at the Clippers' facility like?

They're unbelievable. Melo's there, Durant's there, LeBron came in along with their own players. Players from all over the league are there. They're probably the best runs in the country.


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Have you noticed in your time in the NBA that the way players approach the summer has changed or gotten more intense?

Yeah. The summer's where you get better. The season, you have to kind of show off and show what you've worked on in the summer. The summer's when you get better, for sure.

You call yourself a hoophead. Who do you talk to about basketball?

Anybody. Anybody that wants to talk about basketball. If you put it in perspective, I loved basketball before I loved everything else, you know what I mean? Before I had a girlfriend or even childhood friends, I had my basketball. So it's my first love.

So, last night, you have a game, and elsewhere Melo scores 62, you get back in the locker room ...

tweeted about it. I couldn't wait. I watched every field goal on the plane. And then when I got to the hotel room I watched NBA TV and watched it all again. That's what I do.

You've had 50-point games, is there any way to describe that zone in words?

It's just an unbelievable feeling. It's like, when you're going through your workouts, you're making every single shot and you're like, I'm just lost in my workout. It's just like that. You're in the zone, nothing else matters, you're just locked in.

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