He lost the handle on his famed crossover dribble. A few of his shots sailed wide of the basket.
There were times Tuesday night when the Clippers shooting guard wearing the No. 11 jersey hardly resembled Jamal Crawford.
"That's why we're happy to have him back," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said afterward, "because he has time now to get his rhythm going."
Crawford has three more games to round into form before the playoffs after posting a modest four points on two-for-seven shooting in his return against the Lakers. He had missed the previous five weeks because of a severely bruised right calf, which was about the only body part that wasn't sore after he logged nearly 19 minutes in the Clippers' 105-100 victory at Staples Center.
"None at all," Crawford said when asked about soreness in his calf. "But my legs feel like I'm carrying one of my teammates right now."
That's what can happen when you miss 17 consecutive games, returning only a few weeks after barely being able to walk. Crawford said the game against the Lakers was the first time he had played five on five since he was injured, so he wasn't placing much emphasis on the results.
"When you've been out that long, everybody wants you to come back and be that same guy right away," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said, "but it's going to take him some time and he's going to work his way back in."
Crawford noted there were times he was too passive with the ball and others when he wasn't passive enough. His lone highlight came when he made a 21-foot jumper in the second quarter while being fouled.
There were moments, Crawford said, when he wanted to make a play but his fatigue prevented him from doing it.
"It's tough when you don't have the conditioning right because that's the basis of everything," Crawford said. "If you start feeling tired, your shot's a little bit shorter. You don't want to go to the hole or whatever. It will come, though, I'm not worried about it."
Crawford said he was glad he had another week to improve his conditioning, timing and rhythm before the playoffs.
"To be out that long, for that amount of time, and come back in the playoffs and think everything is going to be normal is not realistic," Crawford said, "so I think getting these games out of the way, getting the rust off, getting timing back, getting in condition and better game shape will help tremendously."
He's just fine
Forward Blake Griffin suffered a gash in his shoulder in the first half when he stumbled into a digital advertising board along the baseline. Griffin said after the game he was fine, even though the cut required a patch that prompted a quip from Rivers.
"I know it's not to get him to stop smoking," Rivers said.
Lester Hudson's 10-day contract expired Tuesday, but Rivers said he had not decided whether to re-sign the veteran guard or bring back Nate Robinson, who was recovering from a knee injury sustained last month. Hudson has appeared in three games with the Clippers, averaging 2.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 11.3 minutes per game.