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Clippers up the ante; Jamal Crawford is all in

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford holds aloft the trophy he won as the NBA sixth man of the year during a ceremony before a playoff game in April.It was his third such award overall, his second as a member of the Clippers.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If at first you don’t succeed, make a better offer.

The Clippers retained the heart of their second unit on Sunday after vastly improving their proposal to Jamal Crawford. 

The star sixth man agreed to a three-year, $42-million contract after an initial smaller offer had left him hesitant about a future with the team.

A previous proposal of one year and $12 million had given Crawford reason to mull other offers, especially after the Clippers had agreed to give Austin Rivers — a backup guard with a far lesser pedigree — a contract for three years and $35.7 million.

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Ultimately, Crawford stayed put with the team with which he won two of his three sixth-man-of-the-year awards, after saying it was his preference to remain with the Clippers. His contract includes a partial guarantee in the third year.

“I’ve been at the gym all day working out because I was so excited to get this done,” Crawford told The Times. “It doesn’t seem real, it was a long road to get here, but I always wanted to be with the Clippers.”

It vastly helped that the Clippers held Crawford’s Bird rights, allowing them to exceed the salary cap to re-sign him. They have now agreed to re-sign the core of their reserves with Crawford, Rivers and Wesley Johnson all committing to coming back. Players cannot sign contracts until the free agency moratorium ends Thursday.

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The team’s second unit won’t be fully intact, however. Center Cole Aldrich agreed to a three-year, $22-million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday and forward Jeff Green had agreed Friday to sign with the Orlando Magic for one year and $15 million.

The Clippers would have had a hard time replacing Crawford’s offense, not to mention his galvanizing locker-room presence, had he departed. He averaged 14.2 points and 2.3 assists last season and made 34.0% of his three-point attempts.

Crawford is 36 but has not shown any appreciable drop in performance in recent seasons and has said he wants to play at least four or five more years.

The Clippers have now committed about $108 million to 11 players, though veteran forward Paul Pierce could retire and second-year forward Branden Dawson’s contract is not guaranteed. Coach Doc Rivers has also said he expected second-round draft picks Diamond Stone and David Michineau to make the team.

The Clippers’ biggest remaining holes are at starting small forward and backup center. They are believed to want to bring back veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who filled the former spot admirably last season and is interested in a return.

With Aldrich gone, the Clippers could target journeyman Jason Thompson, who split last season between Golden State and Toronto. He has career averages of 8.9 points and 6.6 rebounds.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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