HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Having spent his entire adult life in the NBA, Jamal Crawford learned a long time ago that looking back never provides the same sensation as the promise of what’s to come.
That’s why he was all smiles about his firs trip back to Philips Arena since signing with Portland last month as a free agent, and not as worried about whoever will be standing in front of him when the lights come on tonight.
When the Hawks and Trail Blazers square off (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), Crawford’s mind won’t be on what he did in two celebrated years with the Hawks. It won’t be on the awards won or the playoff experiences he gained. It will be about what could be with his new team … and breaking out of the slump he’s been in (he’s averaging 10.8 points on 35 percent shooting from the floor and 33 percent from beyond the 3-point line in the Blazers’ last five games).
“It feels good to be back here and in a familiar environment,” he said. “But it also feels good to be wearing this Blazers jersey and to have moved on to a great situation.”
This time a month ago Crawford wasn’t sure where he’d be playing. He wasn’t sure there’d even be a season, having waited out the lockout as a free agent and then getting shoved into an abbreviated offseason flurry of activity that took place basically over the course of a week.
“It was tough,” Crawford said. “It was almost like a tornado, when you’re caught up in something that’s bigger than anything, and how compressed everything was. At first, you weren’t even sure we were going to have a season and then when we did, you couldn’t do this or that. It was just a weird situation. And that’s why, moving forward, things are going to be a lot more stable.”
Stable is good in Crawford’s eyes. At 31 and ankle-deep into a 12-year NBA career that has included stops at Chicago, New York, Oakland and Atlanta, being in Portland is the closest he’s been to home since he left for Michigan after a stellar prep career at Seattle’s Ranier Beach High School.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Crawford, the NBA’s Sixth-Man of the Year in his first season with the Hawks. “On off days I can go home and come back [to Portland]. It’s like a 20-minute flight or a two-hour drive. And the fan support … it’s similar to what they have in Oklahoma City in that we’re the major thing going on in town. They have 166 straight sellouts. It’s unbelievable. And the fact that I have family able to come to games and stuff is priceless.”
The only thing missing for Crawford is having one of his best friends, former Blazers All-Star and fellow Seattle native Brandon Roy, rolling with him. Roy retired before this season for medical reasons related to his ailing knees. The plan was to play together for the first time as pros and abuse opposing teams in ways that only they could.
But even though it never happened, Crawford said their bond remains as strong as ever.
“As friends, it added a different perspective as far as him being able to tell me about the team, the franchise and the city,” said Crawford, who along with Jason Terry and Michael Dickerson jump started Seattle’s current NBA renaissance, with includes 16 players from the Emerald City suiting up around the league.
“It’s almost like we’ve reversed roles and he’s playing the big brother this time,” Crawford said of his relationship with Roy. ” But it’s cool. We still talk every day and hang out together. We worked out together all summer and stuff and did what we always do back home.”
Home … Crawford seems like he might have finally found one.