Former Clipper Jamal Crawford feels ‘weird’ in return to Staples Center – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — Jamal Crawford entered Staples Center via the same ramp he had for five seasons with the Clippers. He walked the same route to the locker room, said “hello” and “how are you doing?” to the same arena employees and team officials as in the past.

This time, he said it felt “weird” to be back at a place he called home for more seasons and more games than he played anywhere else during his standout 17-year NBA career. He entered the visitor’s locker room instead of the home team’s, for one thing.

Crawford made his first visit to Staples Center since he was traded in the offseason in an overhaul of the Clippers’ roster. The Clippers dealt him to the Atlanta Hawks, who bought him out of his contract. He then signed a two-season deal for about $9 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Memories flooded over Crawford on Wednesday. He thought about his first season with the Clippers in 2012-13, when they captured the imagination of the city as the Lakers’ dynasty started to fade. Lob City and a Tribe Called Bench were fresh and new.

Crawford also recalled the wins and the losses and the near-misses, including their first-round playoff victory over the Golden State Warriors in 2013-14 and their second-round loss to the Houston Rockets in 2014-15, when they squandered a 3-1 series lead.

“You have so many relationships that last a lifetime, not only players and coaches, but kids who you watched grow up,” Crawford said Wednesday before his new team played his old one. “Every time we won a game, all the kids would come in the locker room. It was really like a family atmosphere.

“I think that’s one of the things you miss most.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers praised Crawford for his jump shots and passes and leadership during his 370 regular-season games in red, white and blue, but also credited him with helping to mold young players such as Austin Rivers into the players they have become today.

“He just has a great knowledge of the game,” Doc Rivers said of the 37-year-old Crawford, named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year twice while with the Clippers. “He’s a great teacher. If I have one thing that I miss, I would say the one thing I miss most is not having him around.”

Crawford called his departure “shocking.” He was a key member of the group that lobbied Blake Griffin to remain with the Clippers when he could have signed elsewhere as a free agent last summer. Griffin re-signed with the Clippers, accepting…

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