LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jamal Crawford has taken his high-scoring act on the road during a 12-year NBA career full of short stays with new teams, but the veteran guard hopes he has reached his final destination with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 32-year-old has rarely been able to unpack his suitcase during a series of colorful tenures in which he has earned individual acclaim while failing to deliver any real stability.
Now playing for his fifth team in five years, the well-traveled Crawford is weary of constant change and, as fate would have it, the Clippers are also looking to turn a corner on an inconsistent past.
Having reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2005-06, the fast-rising Los Angeles franchise is attempting to establish itself as a championship contender.
Sensing they needed to strengthen their core, they turned their off-season attention to the six-foot five-inch Crawford who has a career average of 15.3 career points per game.
“Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin ... they all told me I was their number one option in free agency at the guard position,” Crawford, who has signed a four-year contract with the Clippers worth $25 million, told reporters.
“The last few years I’ve been on one-year contracts and that’s always tough. When you feel wanted, and can see where the team is headed, that’s important.”
After previous stints in Chicago, New York, Golden State, Atlanta and the past two seasons in Portland, Crawford has arrived happily in Los Angeles.
His new-found security showed up in Wednesday’s season-opener when he came off the bench to light it up for 29 points, leading the Clippers to a 101-92 win over the rival Grizzlies.
In his spectacular debut, the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year flashed his talents with behind-the-back passes, long jump shots and a cross-over dribble that left Memphis’ Rudy Gay stumbling to the floor.
“He’s going to do great things for our (team),” said team mate DeAndre Jordan. “It’s crazy because he does it so effortless.”
Long considered one of the most gifted players in the NBA, Crawford has not always lived up to his billing and his unpredictability has not been limited to his mailing address.
On the court, Crawford is a ‘shoot-first’ guard who is sometimes inefficient as his 41 percent career shooting average would indicate.
He has shown signs of maturing, however, and disclosed that this past off-season he practiced his shooting, rather than just playing aimlessly, for the first time in his career.
“I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, like I‘m never in the gym. I‘m actually in the gym too much,” Crawford told Reuters.
“But this time, I said I didn’t like how things went last year so I combined shooting drills with what I’ve been doing the last 12 years.”
Crawford’s shooting is second nature, but it is his long awaited sense of belonging that has now become a very welcome unfamiliarity.
“It’s like night and day,” Crawford said. “I feel like I’ve found a home here.”
Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes