Jamal Crawford shows signs he’s adjusting to his role with Clippers

Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford makes a jumper over Pistons guard Steve Blake.

Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford makes a jumper over Pistons guard Steve Blake.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Jamal Crawford had played more minutes than he had all season. He’d been so gassed he had to beg for a breather in the third quarter.

But after Saturday’s game, energized, he skipped through the Clippers’ tunnel toward the locker room. He high-fived everyone on his way and shouted back to one to share his excitement.

As his age advances and his minutes decline, Crawford has assumed a reduced role this season. Before Saturday, in six November games, Crawford had just one with more than four field goals. He said he was still figuring out exactly how he fits on this season’s team.


But with 37 points against the Detroit Pistons, he showed he can still be a prolific scorer.

“Jamal is a great scorer,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s human too and hasn’t had some great games. We knew it was in him. It is not like he forgot how to play.”

An influx of depth in the off-season has diminished Crawford’s role, a reality that he seemed to accept. Late in the season opener, he told Rivers not to substitute him for Paul Pierce, because Pierce was hot.

Crawford still plays a major part, but his playing time, about 24 minutes per game, hasn’t been this low since 2002. His scoring average, 13.6 points per game, hasn’t seen these depths since 2003.

Saturday, then, was pleasant, Crawford said, but he didn’t feel as though he needed to prove anything.

“I never really lose confidence or doubt myself,” Crawford said. “I’m just trying to figure it out.”

With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers rarely need Crawford to put up eye-popping scoring totals. When Paul and fellow guard J.J. Redick come back from injury, he will return to the bench.


“We ask so much of Jamal,” DeAndre Jordan said. “We ask him to start some games, come off the bench some games.”

That flexibility has been valuable. The Clippers had lost two in a row, and four out of five, before Saturday, and a game against the undefeated Golden State Warriors looms on Thursday. Saturday was certainly not a must-win, not in November, but it stopped an ugly skid.

Afterward, Austin Rivers made fun of Crawford’s age. Jordan called him “Benjamin Button.” Crawford iced both knees, then said he was starting to settle into his role.

“I know in the past it’s been more so me off the bench, but we’ve got a bunch of talented guys,” Crawford said. “I know I have pretty much the same role, but sometimes you have to kind of figure out how everybody’s going to fit in and take a step backward just to see how we can make it work.”

Practice makes perfect

Thanks to a busy schedule, the Clippers have held just one practice since the season started. Before they play the Warriors, Doc Rivers said, the Clippers will take two days off, then practice twice.

They can use the extra work.

“I told our coaches three games ago, I said, ‘I’ve never seen a team that needs a practice more than this team,’” Rivers said. “We’ve got all these new guys, we’re playing on the fly, and our execution game by game just kept dropping.”


Twitter: @zhelfand